When an individual passes on, that person’s assets need to be collected and distributed. Additionally, any debts that the estate leaves behind need to be settled through estate administration. In most cases, the administrator of an estate follows the law of the state where the person died. However, it may be necessary to go through an ancillary probate process if property is owned in another state.

The Uniform Probate Code has attempted to make it easier to settle the affairs of an estate. Currently, there are 20 states that follow this protocol. The probate process in almost any case can be described as formal or informal. An informal probate process involves filling out paperwork, having a judge review the paperwork and closing probate. A formal probate process generally occurs when there is a challenge to the will.

During the probate process, the executor of the will is in charge of notifying creditors that an individual has died. The executor will also inventory the estate to determine what goes to creditors to pay off any outstanding balances that may exist. Any taxes levied against the estate must be paid off as well. Once that has been done, remaining assets are distributed to heirs according to the terms of the will. If no will is involved, state law determines how assets may be distributed.

Having a clear will may make it easier for an estate to be settled. It may also make it easier for the estate to avoid legal challenges from those who might contest the distribution. Anyone who is interested in creating a will or trust may wish to speak with an estate administration attorney. Such an attorney may be able to help a client develop a strategy for the distribution of his or her estate.