There are many legal concepts that people in New York may have heard of, but that may be somewhat confusing when it comes to understanding the details. One of those concepts is probate. Many people in Buffalo may have heard of this process and may know that it concerns the estates of decedents. Beyond that, however, people may be unsure of what probate really is.

Probate is a legal process that is initiated when a person passes away. It is the process that involves identifying the decedent’s estate property and collecting it, so that it can be distributed to the decedent’s heirs. During probate, a decedent’s debts are paid off, creditors and heirs are found, and accounts are settled so that the decedent’s estate can be processed, distributed and eventually closed.

Overall, probate may not sound like that bad of a thing. And it generally is not. Probate can, though, take months or even years to complete when challenges and questions arise concerning the decedent’s heirs, assets and estate. While probate is resolving, a decedent’s estate may be reduced due to costs, and therefore the decedent’s heirs may receive less than they would have if the probate process had not taken place.

It is not unusual for some individuals to attempt to avoid probate all together. These individuals may use certain testamentary devices and property ownership structures to ensure that their property and assets pass directly to beneficiaries without having to be probated. Achieving an estate that does not have to go through probate may be complicated, but it can be pursued with the assistance of estate planning and probate attorneys.