The legal distribution of assets and property left by someone who has died is called ‘probate.’ It is a process of law, involving government and courts, that ensures proper and legal distribution of their assets. Even if the deceased person had a legal will, probate is frequently required. In general, probate involves these steps: If a will exists, it is proven to be legal and valid, with all required signatures, witnesses and other documents. Someone is appointed — by the will, or, it not, by the probate court – to administer estate distribution. Probate-eligible estate property and assets are identified, inventories and appraised. Debts or taxes owed by the deceased are settled. Finally, remaining assets are distributed — by the will, or if no legal will exists, based on state law. When probate is required, most assets cannot be distributed until the process is complete. In the US, probate laws vary by state, and probate is not always necessary.
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