What is probate and can it affect me?

     Probate simply refers to the legal process that occurs after a person's death by which assets are gathered, applied to pay debts, taxes and expenses of administration, and distributed to either those designated as beneficiaries in the will, or in the event a person has died intestate (without a will), to their heirs-at-law as determined by the probate court and state law. The personal representative named in the will, or appointed by the probate court in the case of a person dying intestate, is in charge of overseeing this process, and probate provides an orderly method for administration of the estate. The personal representative is held accountable by the beneficiaries (and sometimes is supervised formally by the probate court) for his or her administration of the estate. With few exceptions, property owned by a deceased person may not change ownership without passing through the probate process and being officially transferred by the probate court. In short, if anyone dies holding title to property such as real estate or automobiles, for example,ownership of that property is not allowed to transfer to another individual until the probate court orders it. This is true whether or not a will exists. A will is merely instructions to the probate court as to how a person desires their assets to be distributed upon their death. When a Person dies intestate, state law determines how that person's assets will be distributed through the probate process. Because the probate process is administered by a court, it is a public process. The probate process can be both expensive and time consuming. Klingenberg & Associates possesses extensive experience in the probate of estates and stands ready to assist clients through this often confusing and overwhelming process. Our attorneys also work with clients in advance to plan their estate's in such a way as to minimize the amount of assets subject to the probate process, thus saving clients money, time and anguish.