Why Do You Probate a Will?

By Laura Wallace Henderson

Making out a will doesn’t eliminate the need for court proceedings after your death. A legal process known as probate provides a formal means of supervision for the dissolution of your estate. This process ensures the payment of debts and the correct distribution of assets. An executor has the right to hire an attorney at the expense of the estate to assist with the probate proceedings.


Probate serves a number of purposes in settling an estate. This legal process can help prevent fraud and protect creditors, as well as ensure beneficiaries receive the assets allotted to them by the provisions in the will. The public records generated through probate proceedings allow interested parties to review the actions of the estate executor or administrator. An individual who possesses no assets at the time of death, or who has a living trust that provides for all assets, may avoid probate in some states. Certain assets, such as jointly owned real estate and retirement accounts, may pass outside the probate process.

Submitting the Will

An initial step in starting the probate proceedings involves submitting the decedent’s will and certified death certificate to the court. Initiating the probate proceedings starts the clock on the time limitations creditors have to file claims against the estate. After the statute of limitations passes, creditors can no longer seek payment. The court may also require the executor to supply the names and addresses of a surviving spouse and other beneficiaries. This information helps ensure that all beneficiaries receive notice of important court proceedings.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Court Proceedings

During the probate process, the court officially appoints an individual to act as the administrator or executor, normally the person named in the will. The court may provide documentation to the executor that authorizes him or her to represent the estate in financial transaction. While the executor administers the estate, the court supervises the division of assets to ensure that distribution follows the provisions of the will.

Executor’s Responsibilities

During the probate proceedings, the executor performs a variety of actions that may include paying off the decedent’s debts, compiling an inventory of assets and personal belongings, paying estate taxes, and liquidating financial investments and real estate assets. The executor must follow the instructions in the will, as well as the court’s orders in compiling inventories and distributing contributions to charities and personal belongings to beneficiaries.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Responsibilities of an Estate Executor in California


Related articles

Does the Executor Have Authority Over the Will?

An executor is the person named in a will to administer the estate of the person who died. The executor may be a bank or trust company instead of an individual. While state law varies as to the exact duties of an executor, in general all executors must gather the estate's assets, pay creditors, then distribute remaining estate assets in accordance with the will's directives, without any discretion to deviate from the will except in limited circumstances.

What Is the Responsibility of the Executor of a Will?

Planning ahead includes examining many aspects of your future, such as retirement and investments. Responsible planning also involves considering the division of your assets upon your death. Your will allows you to provide instructions for managing your estate and distributing your belongings. Your will also provides a method of designating your choice of guardian for your minor children or pets.

What to Expect From the Executor of the Will After Someone Dies?

The executor or personal representative of a will is responsible for wrapping up the estate's affairs according to the will's instructions. After someone dies, the executor becomes responsible for the estate, and usually must report to the probate court. You can expect the executor to file the will with the court, manage the estate's assets, pay the estate's bills and distribute the remaining estate assets to the beneficiaries.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Who Gets Paid First Out of a Deceased's Estate?

Probate is the process of settling a decedent's estate under court supervision. State law may establish an informal ...

Why Is Probate Necessary if There Is a Will?

State laws regulate the probate of estates. Probate is the judicial process that provides legal supervision of estates ...

Procedure for Contesting a Will

When a person dies, his will goes through a court-supervised process known as probate. This process provides a reliable ...

What Happens if an Executor Refuses to Probate?

An executor has a duty to act in the best interest of the estate, and refusing to probate an estate may be cause for ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED