Whether you’re going through the process of creating a will or a loved one has recently died, you may have some questions on your mind. For instance, what is probate? How does the probate process work? What happens if my loved one died without a will?

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the basics of probate and how it may affect you. To put it simply, probate is the process by which a deceased person’s assets and property are transferred to the places designated in the will. This could mean doling out lump sums of money, setting up trusts, giving to a charity or dividing property.

If the will names an executor, he or she will handle the process. If not, the courts will appoint someone to do it. The process goes like this:

  • An accounting of the decedent’s property is taken, including all accounts, property and debts.
  • Any taxes, outstanding debts and claims will be paid first.
  • All dividends and rights to income will be collected.
  • Any disputes will be settled with creditors, family members and friends.
  • All of the remaining property and assets will be given to the beneficiaries.

When the person has a will, this process is smooth 99 percent of the time. When they don’t, it can be an incredibly complex and challenging process. That’s why an experienced attorney can be an invaluable help. Whether you’re the executor or a family member, an experienced attorney can help you every step of the way.