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  • Carol Highfill

Probate Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

What duties can a personal representative perform?

In addition to these duties, some of the things that a personal representative might need to perform include identifying and locating missing property belonging to an estate; paying bills owed by the decedent before they become due; preparing tax returns; helping family members who want to claim inheritance rights to file their own income tax return(s); finding out whether there are outstanding judgments against the deceased person; ensuring that insurance policies covering the death benefit continue to cover the beneficiary; and resolving disputes between relatives regarding ownership of real estate, automobiles, bank accounts, etc., which may arise after the death of one relative but prior to the death of another.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal certification of someone’s last written directions regarding his/her worldly belongings.

What is Probating an Estate?

In this usage, probate means the entire process that gathers all the available assets (including real estate), pays off any outstanding debt, admin fees and then distributes whatever remains among the beneficiaries named in the will.

What is a Personal Representative?

The personal representative has legal authority to handle the affairs of an estate according to the law of his/her jurisdiction.

What Is a Last Will and Testament?

A Last Will and Testament (LWT) is a legal document prepared by an individual prior to his/her death that states the terms under which he/she wants his/her property distributed after his/her death.

What Is Joint Tenants (or Tenancy)?

JTWROS means "joint tenant with right of survivorship" and refers to an arrangement under which each co-owner has an undivided interest in the whole estate. If one co-owner predeceases another, his share passes directly to the survivor without further action by anyone else.

What Is a Probate Court?

A probate court may be called a "surrogate" court because it administers an estate when no personal representative has been appointed by the decedent.

Can I Probate the Property of a Person Who Dies?


What is a Will?

A Will is a document that describes how an owner wishes his/her assets to be distributed upon their death. If properly drafted, a valid Will may provide a peaceful way to distribute property with their descendants.

What happens to insurance policies after probate?

In general, proceeds from life insurance policies go straight into the hands of the named beneficiaries unless they name an executor for the estate instead.

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