PROBATE

WHAT IS PROBATE ?  Probate is the legal process regarding the administration and distribution of the estate of a deceased person (or “decedent”). It is administered under the jurisdiction of probate courts.

The court makes sure that the decedent is real and personal property is identified, inventoried and appraised, and ensures that any applicable debts and taxes are paid before the balance of the property is distributed to the heirs. Probate is a very time consuming and paperwork intensive process. Most people hire a probate attorney to help them with the probate administration process.

Probate Administration

Some probate estates can be administered  in one year or less, but may take longer. Probate is concerned with: Cataloging all property – Paying any debts, claims or taxes that are due – Collecting rights to any income (royalties, stock dividends, etc.) to which the deceased was entitled – Settling financial and property disputes – Liquidating property (real or personal) of the deceased -Distributing or transferring the remaining property to heirs.

A personal representative is appointed by the court to administer the decedent’s estate. A personal representative can have various names (executor, administrator, etc.), depending on the type of probate estate, but each personal representative has similar duties and responsibilities, which include managing the probate estate. Usually, in a will, the decedent names an “executor” to act as personal representative. If there is no will or the decedent failed to name an executor, the court will appoint a personal representative.

Conservatorship

A Conservatorship is set up after the Court has decided that a person (called the “conservatee”) is gravely disabled and unable to meet their basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter.

A Judge will choose another person or organization (called the “conservator”) to be in charge of the conservatee’s care or finances, or both.

A conservator can be a family member, friend, or professional.

Guardianship

A guardianship is a legal relationship created when a person or institution named in a will or assigned by the court to take care of minor children or incompetent adults.

A guardianship can be of the Person or the Estate. Often, a temporary guardianship is necessary, which are generally granted by the courts to achieve a specific purpose for a certain amount of time.

Once the purpose is accomplished, the guardianship is terminated.