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Are probate and estate administration the same?

Many areas of law leave most people confused. After all, legal matters remain so complex that many individuals devote their careers to learning specific areas of law in order to help others when the need arises. Even when individuals think they know a certain amount regarding a legal topic, they may come to discover they did not know as much as they thought.

When it comes time to close a deceased individual's estate, you may immediately think that the estate will need to go through probate proceedings. While you may have also heard of estate administration, you may have believed that the two terms referred to the same process. However, differences do exist between probate and administration as well as between executors and administrators.

Probate proceedings

An estate will go through probate if the deceased person created a will. In this document, the person will likely have named an individual to carry out the actions needed to close the estate. This appointed party gains the title of executor. If then falls to him or her to petition the court to begin probate proceedings.

Probate involves the process of ensuring the that will presented to the court is valid and represents the deceased's true intentions. Once validation occurs, other actions, such as property distribution, can take place as part of the probate proceedings. The executor will also act on the instructions the decedent left in the will and other documents.

Administration proceedings

If your loved one did not create a will or other estate planning documents, he or she did not legally name a person to handle his or her final affairs. Therefore, probate will not take place because a will does not need validating. However, the estate still needs administering, and if you or another party wish to act as administrator, you may petition the court for that role. In the end, the court will make the ultimate decision.

Because there are no personal instructions left by your deceased loved one, state law will dictate how the final affairs are handled during administration. This fact may make closing the estate more difficult, and a greater chance for disputes may arise.

Handling either process

Whether probate or administration, the process involved with closing an estate can prove complex and time consuming. Often, individuals acting in the role of executor or administrator may face confusion and conflict along the way. Fortunately, you have options for obtaining legal assistance with this process if you wish.

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