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What is probate and how should I approach the process?

Probate is often talked about in scary terms. In reality, probate is simply the process of transferring assets and property from a deceased person to his or her relatives, loved ones, beneficiaries and other interested parties. For the most part, people usually have a will that dictates how many of the issues considered during the probate process are actually handled. But probate is the basic process of transferring these pieces of property and assets.

The reason many people try to avoid probate is because it can often be time consuming and costly. This is why having a will is so important, and why placing certain assets into trusts and shielding them from the potential tax implications of the probate process is a critical step.

It all goes back to a simple sentiment: everyone should have a will. The probate process is simplified when you have a will. And the more assets you protect with trusts and other estate planning mechanics can only benefit you and your beneficiaries.

Also, remember that during probate you can have an executor that you have appointed to deal with the estate. This again highlights the importance of having a will. In the will, you can name your executor.

The executor is in charge of collecting all of the assets involved in the individual's estate. Then, the executor has to pay off existing debts and determine who has rightful claims to certain assets. Ultimately, the executor of your estate distributes the assets and property to the rightful beneficiaries.

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