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Many people have questions about the probate process. For example, is a probate needed, what is the probate process, do you need a probate attorney, and how long will it take?

Whether a probate is necessary depends on how an individual’s assets are held at his or her death. Some types of assets are subject to probate, while other assets are not. During the probate process, a Personal Representative – also known as the Executor – is appointed to administer the estate, collect the assets, pay creditor claims, and distribute the assets to the named persons under the Will.

An attorney is generally necessary to assist the Personal Representative in administering the probate estate. The attorney educates the Personal Representative in the tasks and timelines involved, and prepares the pleadings for filing with the court.

The probate generally takes a minimum of five months to administer, depending on the type assets. For example, if a house needs to be sold, the probate may be delayed until the sale is complete.

An alternative to the formal probate process is the Small Estate Affidavit, which may provide shorter and less expensive administration of an estate. It is important to consult with an attorney to determine if a Small Estate Affidavit is appropriate.