What’s a probate?

Legal  Column

by Curry Andrews

Probate causes a lot of confusion, and it’s important to understand what it actually is. When a person passes away, there is nobody left who has the legal authority to sign things like deeds or account transfer papers, etc. So, under the laws of the state of Idaho, a judge can appoint someone to act as a personal representative who will have the authority to sign documents in the estate.

If the person who passed away (the “decedent”) left assets worth more than one hundred thousand dollars or left behind real property like land or a house, then a probate must be filed in Idaho. If there is property held in another state, sometimes a probate has to be filed there as well.

This can be avoided by using a trust. If the property is held by a trust, then it passes to the heirs through the trust and not through a court order in a probate. It’s a common misconception that having a last will and testament means you won’t have to have your estate probated. That’s actually not right. A will is sort of like a formal set of instructions for the judge in a probate action. It lets the judge know who should be in charge, who your heirs are and what they should get. It can make probate less expensive and easier on the family.

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