What you need to know about probate before you begin

3 min read

When someone dies, their assets will be passed on to their heirs. But before that happens, there is a mandatory legal process to do things like verify the will, settle debts, and appraise assets. This process is called probate.

Probate is a matter of state law, not federal. So the particulars of the process depend on which state your loved one died or owned property—which is why the advice of a local probate lawyer is almost always a smart investment. Hiring an attorney can help you avoid costly mistakes (and in certain states, like Texas, it is legally required).

The articles below offer a solid base of knowledge base about probate in general, so that you can tackle the most common challenges it presents and speak to an attorney, if needed, from a more informed place.

If you’re the executor

Probate involves six key steps that the executor must follow to comply with the law. 

Full article: Probate essentials: Everything an executor needs to know

Getting started as an executor

What should you do first? After finding and reading the will, there are several more things to accomplish quickly as soon as you assume your role.

Full article: First steps for an executor

Can I avoid probate?

Not every estate needs to go through the full probate process. Whether full probate is needed depends on the size of the estate, how it was held, and the laws of the state in which your loved one lived or held property.

Full article: Can I avoid probate?

Do you need a lawyer for probate?

It is legal to go through the full probate process on your own, but hiring a lawyer is strongly advised for estates that are large, insolvent, or involved in any conflicts.

Full article: Do you need a lawyer for probate?

How much do probate lawyers cost?

In some places, the cost is tied to the size of the estate, and in others you’ll simply pay attorneys an hourly rate, plus fees, for their work. Either way, keep in mind that lawyers are paid with funds from the estate.

Full article: What you can expect to pay a lawyer during probate

How long does probate take?

It is notoriously difficult to predict a time frame for an estate going through probate. But answering a few questions can give you some hints about what to expect

Full article: Estimating how long probate will take