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What is meant by probating an estate?

Probate is the process by which the legal title to a deceased person's real estate and personal property pass to that person's legal heirs or, if there is a will, to any person designated by the deceased.  Probate also involves preserving the estate until such distribution can take place and paying the debts of the deceased person.  Probate takes place in the county where the deceased person lived.  A "personal representative" is appointed by the Court:

  • to identify, take possession, protect and conserve all the real and personal property of the estate,
  • to receive and collect all rents, payments and debts due the estate, including interest, dividends, claims and notes,
  • to determine the names, ages, residence and degree of relationship of all possible heirs,
  • to determine and pay any outstanding valid debts including taxes and
  • to carry out the orders of the district court in all matters before the court and to distribute the property to the proper parties.

Every action taken by the personal representative must be approved by a  judge. It is imperative that the personal representative be guided by a competent attorney.