Probate: Distributing Your Property
Probate is the legal process through which a court makes sure that your property is distributed to your beneficiaries. Probate takes place in the court of the city or county where you had your legal home. Only certain types of property?called probate property?must go through probate. In some states the probate process can be completed in a few days. In other states it may take many months.
What You Should Know
What is Probate?
Probate means to “prove” a will. During probate, a court makes sure that the will bearing your signature is a genuine statement of how you want your estate to be distributed. The court also oversees how your probate estate is distributed to your beneficiaries or heirs.
Remember: Beneficiaries are the persons or organizations you mention in your will. Your heirs are the people the law says will get your estate.
What is Probate Property?
Only certain types of property must go through probate, and are called “probate property.” They are:
- Property you held in your name alone.
- Property you owned jointly as “tenants in common.” For more information about this type of property, see Types of Property Ownership.
- Life insurance policies payable to your estate, not to another person or institution.
- Your deceased spouse’s share of community marital property. For more information about community property states, see Types of Property Ownership.
Starting the Probate Process
You can use your will to name an “executor” who will manage and settle your estate. This executor starts the probate process by presenting your original will to the court.