What does it mean to go through probate? 13 Answers as of October 28, 2011

My uncle just passed away. I am his only living relative. I contacted his bank to close out his accounts (to pay for his funeral) but I was told since he had no will, I will have to go through "probate". What does that mean, and do I need to have an attorney or can I do it myself?

Ask a Local Attorney. 100% Anonymous. Free Answers.

Free Case Evaluation by a Local Lawyer: Click here
Martinson & Beason, PC
Martinson & Beason, PC | Douglas C Martinson II
It means you will have to file a petition to probate or "prove" his heirs, give notice to creditors, etc. Since there was no will, you will have to file an administration unless the estate is less than $25,000 and there is no real estate (in that case you can file a Summary Distribution). You uncle will probably have a lot more relatives than just you. You will have to track down the heirs and list them or list them as unknown heirs and give them notice of the proceedings. You would have to be bonded, file an inventory of assets and liabilities, give notice to creditors and a final settlement. You could be entitled to a 5% commission for serving as Administrator as well as be reimbursed for any expenses.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 10/18/2011
Goldsmith & Guymon
Goldsmith & Guymon | Dara Goldsmith
Having or not having a Will is not determinative of whether probate is necessary. Depending upon the total value of all of your uncle's assets that do not have named beneficiaries, joint tenants or held in trust will determine if a probate is necessary. You may need a simple affidavit, to proceed with a set aside petition or you may in fact require a probate to administer your uncle's assets. You probably should consult with counsel about the specific facts of your case, or you may try to navigate the probate arena on your own and utilize the forms available at the self help center at Family Court.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 10/12/2011
The Law Offices of Laurie E. Ohall, P.A.
The Law Offices of Laurie E. Ohall, P.A. | Laurie E. Ohall
The reason assets go through probate has nothing to do with the Will, it is because the assets were titled solely in your Uncle's name. In order for the title to the accounts to pass over to you, the assets must go through probate. Probate is a court proceeding where someone is appointed the personal representative (depending on the size of the estate), identifies the assets, pays off any creditors and then distributes the assets to beneficiaries. This can take anywhere from 3 months to one year. If your Uncle had a Will, the Will would tell the court who gets appointed as the personal representative and who gets what assets. If he doesn't have a Will, then the state of Florida dictates who gets appointed as personal representative and who gets what. In most cases, Florida laws require the hiring of an attorney to probate an estate. Whether you need an attorney or not will depend on the amount of the assets in the estate.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 10/12/2011
Ashman Law Office
Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
Probate is the process by which his debts are paid and heirs get the rest. Yes, you should get a lawyer.
Answer Applies to: Georgia
Replied: 10/28/2011
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C.
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C. | Brian Haggerty
You may not need to go through probate. Contact a lawyer and see if your uncle's estate can be resolved without probate. If probate is needed, you should hire a lawyer, although you do not need to.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 10/11/2011
    The Schreiber Law Firm
    The Schreiber Law Firm | Jeffrey D. Schreiber
    Given that probate is technical, it would best to consult with an attorney who can tell you if a probate case needs to be filed and what it would cost.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    The Coyle Law Office
    The Coyle Law Office | T. Andrew Coyle
    Probate is the court process through which a decedent's assets are transferred to his heirs. Probate can be avoided, though, if your uncle had less than $100k in the bank. You will need to prepare a Small Estate Affidavit (can be found on Illinois Secretary of State website) and complete the form. If your uncle had over $100k in the bank, you will likely need to go through the probate process and I would recommend hiring a local probate attorney who can help you through that.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    Harville-Stein Law Offices, LLC
    Harville-Stein Law Offices, LLC | Dean D. Stein
    You should contact an Attorney to handle this. Probate is the process by which the assets are gathered, claims are paid and the rightful heirs ascertained. At some point, the estate assets are distributed to the heirs and the estate closed to court.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    Bullivant Houser Bailey PC
    Bullivant Houser Bailey PC | Darin Christensen
    Probate is a court ordered process for transferring the assets of a decedent to heirs and making sure creditors are paid. You could do a probate yourself, but given the notices that are required and the limits on what you are supposed to do it would be best to hire a lawyer. The process takes about 5 months if there are no complications. It starts with a petition that includes a death certificate and information about all heirs and beneficiaries. If there is no will, you will almost certainly have to post a bond to be appointed as personal representative. Once the petition is approved by the court, you would be appointed as personal representative and given authority to gather and manage the decedent's assets and pay creditors. You would have to try to locate and send notices to all creditors and file an inventory of the decedent's assets. At the end of the probate, if the court is satisfied that creditors have been paid and there are no unresolved objections, the court would allow the decedent's assets to be distributed to you. If the decedent's assets were not high in value, it is possible to do a simpler small estate affidavit procedure instead of probate.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    McCleary & Associates, PC
    McCleary & Associates, PC | David M. McCleary
    It is a court proceeding where title to assets is transferred to a person's heirs. You can do it yourself but you can also do your own brain surgery, generally does not work out well if you do it yourself.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    The Law Office of David L. Leon
    The Law Office of David L. Leon | David L. Leon
    Probate is the process where you prove someone is dead and you administer their estate. You should get a lawyer to help you, as it can get tricky fast.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 10/11/2011
Click to View More Answers: