Skip to main content

Are you a legal professional? Visit our professional site

Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

What is Probate Court?

"Probate" has a bit of a bad reputation in the world of estate planning. Most of the talk concerning probate is about how to avoid it. While people often agree that avoiding probate can be a good idea in many cases, it's helpful to understand the probate process so that you can form the best plan for yourself.

For more information, see FindLaw's sections on Estate Administration and Estate Laws.

What is Probate?

"Probate" is a legal process that deals with the assets and debts left behind after someone dies. By default, probate is supervised by a court, called the probate court. Note that the term "probate" can be used to describe the legal process, the court in which the process takes place, or the distribution of assets. The probate process can include all aspects of estate administration, such as:

Probate typically begins when the deceased's representative files a petition along with the death certificate in the probate court. The process generally ends when the court formally closes the estate.

Probate: Pros and Cons

The cons of probate are what drive people to try to avoid it -- specifically, that probate is time consuming and expensive. Many states require 30 to 90 day waiting periods as part of probate. If a relative or potential heir decides to contest the will or the court's asset distribution, the process can take even longer. In addition, the court, attorneys, assessors, and other professionals involved all charge fees for processing an estate. These fees typically come out of the estate itself.

There are, however, some benefits to the probate process. First, for certain estates in some jurisdictions, probate may be required. It's best to check with a local probate attorney to determine whether probate is necessary in your jurisdiction. Second, the formality of probate court often gives some degree of certainty to the deceased's family. If there was ever a question about whether a will is valid or about the worth of a particular asset, the probate process will find an answer.

Probate Court: Additional Resources

If you are looking for more information related to probate laws or estate planning, click on the links below to learn more.

Get Legal Help Understanding Probate Court

Probate, estate planning, and intestacy law are governed by the states. What may be legal in your state may not be legal in neighboring states. If your estate looks like it may be complicated, whether it's due to its size, the type of assets your estate will have, or the number of potential heirs, it's best to consult with a local probate and estate administration attorney to get personalized help with planning your estate.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified estate planning attorney to help with the probate process.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options