A probate is a court process which aims to settle a deceased person’s estate. Typically, a probate is necessary if a person dies with assets that only he or she could control. For example, Joe passes away owning a house titled solely in his name, and Joe’s only son wants to sell the house. This is a very common situation which may require a probate. Joe’s son cannot sell the house, because he does not own it; Joe does. Joe’s son would need to initiate a probate and be appointed a “personal representative” (which is the same as an “executor”). The Personal Representative is appointed by the court, and then has the authority to settle the estate. Joe’s son needs the court to give him the authority to sell the house. The Personal Representative will likely need to consult with a lawyer, and usually has to do quite a bit of paperwork; it is very common for a probate to last longer than nine months, even if the probate is not complex.
If your estate has less than $75,000 in personal property (including household goods, bank accounts, vehicles, and mobile homes), and $200,000 in real property (house and land), you may be able to file a “small estate” probate, which consists of a shorter process and less paperwork to submit to the courts.