The Probate Process: What Does It Mean?

When discussing estate planning, you’ll often hear the word “probate” mentioned, yet many don’t know what it means and why it’s such an integral part of the process. The more you understand, the easier it will be when it comes time to close out the affairs of a loved one.

So, what is probate?

Simply put, probate is the legal process of transferring property and assets upon a person’s death. It begins with a court’s formal recognition of the person’s last wishes in the form of a will and the representative chosen is officially appointed to oversee the process. If there was no one chosen in the will, the court will appoint someone. Then, debts are paid from the estate and property is distributed according to the person’s wishes.

While it can be a long, arduous process for the heirs, it’s typically straightforward as long as a properly drafted will was in place.

Can the probate process be avoided?

People often try to avoid probate because it can be expensive and take anywhere from a few months to a year before everything is settled. The best way to avoid the probate process is through a living trust which allows you to control who receives your assets after you pass. A will alone does not avoid probate because the transfer of property still needs to happen where as a trust is created so the person who passes no longer owns the assets, they are in the name of the trust.

Another way to avoid probate is through joint property with rights of survivorship. If you and a co-owner such as a spouse or significant other both own a property as joint tenants, it allows the property to pass automatically to the second owner when you pass. Remember, the property that is jointly owned won’t need to go through probate but won’t rule out other property that is solely owned.

These are few basics to look into when estate planning but it’s important to understand this area is not black and white. Take the time to meet with us at Massi & Massi Attorneys at Law to go through your particular situation to develop the best plan for you and your family.


Don’t allow a hill to become a mountain. Call Massi & Massi Attorneys at Law at 702-870-1100 or set up a consultation.