The probate process is mystifying to some people; however, it doesn't have to be. In the simplest of terms, probate is meant to transfer the assets of the decedent to the rightful heirs. This is done based on the estate plan of the person. If the person doesn't have one, the case will follow the intestate guidelines of the state.
For most people, the probate process is simple. There aren't any legal issues that come up during the process. For others, will contests and other litigation matters will come up. These individuals need to ensure they know their rights and responsibilities as the case moves through the court system.
It is important to remember that some property won't have to pass through the probate process at all. This includes accounts that are governed by a payable on death designation. Bank accounts and life insurance policies commonly fall under this category.
Trusts aren't going to go through the probate process, so many people choose to transfer assets in this manner. Not only do trusts bypass probate, but they can also protect the assets from the claims of creditors. The key to this is that they have to be irrevocable trusts so that the person who establishes them can't have control over the assets.
When an estate goes into probate, the executor or administrator will handle the estate's matters. This person will file the final taxes for the estate, ensure that creditor claims are handled in accordance with the applicable laws, and facilitate the transfer of assets to the rightful heirs. These duties can be complex, but a properly prepared estate plan can make this easier.