Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone passes away, involving the validation of their will and the administration of their estate. There are different types of probate, each of which is used depending on the circumstances and the assets left behind by the deceased.
Here are the main types of probate:
Testate Probate: This type of probate occurs when the deceased person had a valid will in place at the time of their death. The will specifies how the deceased’s assets should be distributed among their beneficiaries. The court oversees the process of validating the will, ensuring that it meets all legal requirements, and then supervises the distribution of assets according to the will’s instructions.
Intestate Probate: When a person dies without having a valid will or if their will is deemed invalid, their estate is distributed according to the laws of intestacy. These laws vary depending on the jurisdiction and typically dictate how the assets are distributed among surviving relatives, such as spouses, children, parents and siblings.
Small Estate Probate: Many jurisdictions offer simplified probate processes for smaller estates. These processes are often faster and less expensive than regular probate proceedings. The definition of a “small estate” varies by jurisdiction, but it generally refers to estates with a lower total value. Small estate probate procedures usually involve less court oversight and administrative burden.
Supervised Probate: Also known as formal probate, this type involves close court supervision throughout the entire probate process. The court oversees every step, including validating the will, inventorying the assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries. This type of probate can be time-consuming and expensive due to the higher level of court involvement.
Unsupervised Probate: In this type of probate, the court’s involvement is limited, and the executor (the person named in the will to administer the estate) has more autonomy in managing the estate’s affairs. The court may only step in if disputes arise of if the executor’s actions are questionable. Unsupervised probate is generally faster and less costly than supervised probate.
Ancillary Probate: This type of probate comes into play when a person owns property in multiple jurisdictions. The primary probate process takes place in the deceased person’s domicile (where they lived), while ancillary probate is used to address the assets located in other states or countries.
Living Probate of Conservatorship: This is a legal process used when a person becomes incapacitated and is unable to manage their affairs. A court appoints a conservator (sometimes called a guardian) to make financial and personal decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person. This is not strictly a type of probate related to the deceased’s estate but is related to managing someone’s affairs during their lifetime.
The specific probate procedures and terminology can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another, so it’s important to consult with legal professionals familiar with the laws in your area when dealing with probate matters.
For more information, see our Probate FAQ.