DEFINITION of 'Probate'

The legal process in which a will is reviewed to determine whether it is valid and authentic. Probate also refers to the general administering of a deceased person's will or the estate of a deceased person without a will. The court appoints either an executor named in the will (or an administrator if there is no will) to administer the process of collecting the assets of the deceased person, paying any liabilities remaining on the person's estate and finally distributing the assets of the estate to beneficiaries named in the will or determined as such by the executor.


Because of the costs of court involvement in the probate process and the potential for involvement of lawyers who collect fees from the estate of the deceased, many people try to minimize costs associated with the probate process. There are tremendous legal and tax complexities in the probate process, so it is advisable to have a will and speak with a lawyer and financial professional in order to insure that your loved ones are not left with the complicated and often messy task of distributing the assets of your estate upon your passing.

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