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What Is The Probate Process?

When a loved one passes away, surviving family members and friends may not know what the immediate next steps are to start administering the deceased’s will. The first step is to validate the will with the courts. This is known as obtaining probate.

Probate allows you to bring a will to court, and have a judge declare the document a legal and valid will. If there are disputes over the validity of a will surviving family members or beneficiaries can bring the matter to court to resolve the issue.

So how do you validate a will?

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You can validate a will on your own, or you can use the services of an estate lawyer. An estate lawyer can guide you through the probate process, and help you resolve any disputes that arise.

Probating a will

When you bring a will to court for validation, a judge will generally check that the following guidelines have been met:

  • Contains the signature of the deceased
  • Contains two signatures as witnesses (the witnesses should not be listed as beneficiaries in the will)
  • Check last records to determine the deceased had the mental capacity to make the will at the time it was written
  • Check the dates of the will to make sure certain provisions are still enforceable (for example, if the deceased divorced, but did not update the will, certain spousal rights may not apply).

You May Not Need To Probate A Will

Probate is not always necessary. Usually, when the estate is small, or if the property is jointly held, probate is not necessary as the division of property can be easily administered. However, if you question the validity of the will, it’s best to consult with a lawyer to ensure the will has been probated by the courts.

Once a will has been probated, an estate trustee can bring the proof of probate to banks and other institutions and begin administering the estate according to the last wishes of the deceased.

If you are unsure if a will is valid or legal, contact an estate lawyer for guidance on how to resolve the matter.

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