Probate of Wills and Administration
If a person dies with property (both land and/or personal property) titled in his or her name only, someone has to be given the legal authority to transfer that property out of the deceased person’s name and into the name of whoever is entitled to receive it. The purpose of the Probate Court is to authorize and oversee this transfer of property.
The person appointed by the Court or the Probate Register to transfer these assets is called the Personal Representative. The Probate Court grants the Personal Representative the authority to collect all of the deceased persons’ assets and transfer them to the persons named in the will or to the heirs if there is no will.
An estate can be completed in as little as one day if the assets are less than $19,000. For an estate with more assets it generally will take at least five months to complete the estate administration because there is a four month waiting period for potential creditors to file claims. Notice to creditors will be published by the personal representative in a local newspaper.
The Probate Laws were changed in 2000 to make the process less complicated, allow for more flexibility, and to make the process more private. For example, the estate no longer has to have a list of all of the assets filed in the court file. The list can be simply presented to Probate Court Staff at the Probate Counter to determine the inventory fee.
While the process has been simplified by the changes in the law, it is still advisable to seek the assistance of an attorney familiar with probate law before opening an estate.