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Is probate actually useful? If so, in what ways?

After your death, the person you named in your will as executor -- or, if you die without a will, the person appointed by a judge -- files papers in the local probate court. The executor proves the validity of your will and presents the court with lists of your property, your debts, and who is to inherit what you've left. Then, relatives and creditors are officially notified of your death. That's how it works. And the uses of probate to protect all concerned are obvious. Probate is designed to transfer titled assets to legitimate heirs, ensure that outstanding taxes and debts are paid, and to establish if the Will left by the deceased is valid.

Probate is the best method the courts have to verify that the Will a decedent has left behind is 100% authentic and 100% valid. All titled assets that were owned by the decedent are legally transferred and distributed to the named beneficiaries through probate. Probate also helps with the payment of taxes and debts that were owed by the decedent, and these are taken from the estate. If anyone contests the Will, this is another issue that is dealt with through the probate process. The Probate process ensures that: A person's last Will and testament is dealt with fairly and in accordance with his or her wishes, and that an executor is appointed, whenever appropriate, to oversee the disbursement of assets. Assets are distributed fairly through probate, with the appointment of an official estate administrator, if there is no Will or executor of the estate.

Probate is also the best method the courts have to verify that issues regarding the validity of the Will are settled [during the probate process], before distribution of assets. Probate make certain that all of the items listed in the decedent's Will are legally transferred to the appropriate beneficiary or beneficiaries. It is also important to remember that some assets do not have to go through probate, although this depends on the laws of the state in which the Will is being dealt with. Assets such as joint bank accounts and properties that are in joint names are not included. Many states allow assets to a certain value to be excluded from probate. If the assets in the decedent's name are negligible, probate is typically not necessary.

Probate enables the decedent's debts to be dealt with through the estate, and all balances settled prior to the disbursement of the estate's assets. Probate allows for a specific time frame, generally 6 months from the inception of probate, to let creditors file their claims.