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Probate

Probate is the process of validating a Will, although the term is often used to refer to the entire administration of a decedent’s estate. The process starts when an executor files an application to probate the Will. If the probate judge determines that the document meets the legal requirements of a valid Will, the judge will enter an order admitting the Will to probate, and appoint an executor to gather the decedent’s assets, pay off any legally enforceable debt, and distribute the decedent’s assets as specified in the Will.

Probate can also occur if someone dies without a Will. When someone dies without a Will, the probate court is often called upon to make an official determination regarding the identify of heirs. If the determination of heirship proceeding is filed within four years of the decedent’s death, then the court can also appoint an administrator to administer the estate.