Estate administration, also called “probate,” refers to the legal procedures by which a deceased person’s property passes to others following his or her death. Probate administration applies to persons who died with wills and persons who died without wills (“intestate”).
By way of a partial summary, probate allows the court to identify whether someone needs to be appointed to manage the deceased’s affairs – not every estate requires such “administration.” For example, if the deceased had no debts (other than a residential mortgage, car note, or similar secured debts), her estate likely does not require administration, and the probate process would only require entry of orders that identify her heirs and distribute her property to them.
Although many people will advise you to takes steps during your lifetime to “avoid probate,” estate administration is an essential and very important process. Probate clears title to real estate and other property. Probate settles legitimate debts and wipes out others. Probate establishes a new income tax basis for the deceased’s property. By careful estate planning during your lifetime, and consultation with an attorney following your loved one’s death, the process of probate administration can be carefully managed to provide for closure of almost every estate as quickly and economically as possible.