People often face a myriad of emotions when a close friend or family member passes away. Not only are people forced to deal with an emotional time, but there are a host of issues to take care of involving the deceased’s estate. Depending on the circumstances of the deceased’s property and assets, the estate may be required to enter the probate process. This process is designed to gather the property and assets involved in the estate and ensure those items are properly distributed to the rightful heirs named in the last will and testament.

The estate administrator is the person responsible for overseeing the case through the probate process. Sometimes referred to as the estate executor, the administrator must obtain any property and/or assets belonging to the estate and have it valued. This includes any term life insurance policies, retirement plans, stocks, antiques, property and other expensive possessions. Any debts or expenses still owed by the deceased is then paid out of the estate. During this time, the executor must protect the property and assets from theft and/or vandalism.

Once the debts are paid, the remaining property is given to the beneficiaries named in the will. The executor must track down the beneficiaries and make sure they get the property that they are entitled to in the will. This may take some time, especially if there are any disputes over property left by the deceased.

Not all cases go into probate. While planning an estate, people may choose to leave their assets in a trust, which can be directly transferred to beneficiaries rather than go through probate.