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What is probate and why does it have negative connotations?

No want wants to think about death, but it is an inevitable part of our lives (ironically enough). So when that last stage of our life arrives, it is important for the person to have all of his or her legal, financial and estate affairs in order. Once that individual passes away, their estate will enter what is known as probate.

Probate is the legal process for transferring a person's assets and property when they pass away. This happens regardless of whether you have a will or not; whether you have trusts or not; whether you have guardians and/or conservators or not. Your estate will enter probate. But the goal is to minimize the number of issues, assets and pieces of property that are included in the probate process.

This is because probate is a costly process, and it can become quite muddled, complicated, confusing and infuriating for your surviving loved ones and family members. The less organized your estate is going into probate, the more headaches probate can cause your loved ones and family members.

During probate, a number of things will happen. Any property that isn't exempt from probate will be collected. Past debts and taxes will be paid off. Rights to income and dividends, as well as other financial matters, will be settled -- in addition to any other disputes that may exist in relation to the estate and the beneficiaries. Ultimately, probate ends with the property, assets and inheritance being passed on to the heirs and beneficiaries. 

The probate process may be contested or uncontested by your heirs, loved ones and parties who feel they have a claim to your estate. Just another reason why avoiding the probate process as much as possible is helpful. We'll talk about this more in our next blog post on the probate process.

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