Probate is essentially a Court order declaring that the final Will and Testament of the deceased is valid and in order. This means that the person named in the Will as Executor is granted permission to go ahead and distribute the deceased’s estate as laid out in the Will.
Without probate, the executor may not be able to access the deceased’s bank accounts, or distribute assets to the people listed as beneficiaries. The actual probate document gives banks and other asset holders proof that the person trying to gain access to the deceased’s assets is in fact the legal executor.
While usually required, there may be some cases where obtaining probate is not necessary, such as for small estates valued under $50,000.
An application for probate is filed by the executor in the Supreme Court, along with the deceased’s original Will, a death certificate, and details of the deceased’s assets and liabilities.
As part of the process, the assets of the deceased are identified and valued, and outstanding debts are determined. It is important that any debts be settled before the estate is distributed, otherwise the executor may find themselves liable.
The process of administering an estate, from the time of death to the final distribution of assets, can typically take at least a year.
Our lawyers can assist executors to file an application for probate, an often complex procedure involving much paperwork, particularly if the estate is large. We can also advise executors on their obligations and help them carry out their duties lawfully and quickly.