Probate is the process used to ask a judge (usually a probate court judge) to approve a decedent’s will so the instructions in the will can be acted upon.

The probate court will usually require an inventory of assets and notice to beneficiaries and creditors before allowing a decedent’s estate to be distributed. Guardianship of minor children can also be approved through the probate process.

Probate has gotten a bad name because of the cost and time required. Probate can take, on average, anywhere from 6 to 18 months, so beneficiaries waiting for their inheritance may have to be patient. The probate process can also be expensive, as the probate court will charge a fee based on the value of the estate; the Personal Representative of the decedent’s estate may also hire a lawyer, which adds additional cost.

One of the benefits of a trust over a will is that a trust does not have to go through probate before assets can be distributed.

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