Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo Logo

What is Probate of a Will?

03/27/2024 | Blog, Probate
An Elderly Man Signing His Will

Navigating through the intricacies of probate law can often feel overwhelming, especially during the emotional time following the loss of a loved one. This blog aims to demystify the process of probating a will, making it understandable for anyone with a high school reading level. By breaking down what it means to probate a will, the associated costs, and the role of different elements such as real estate and bank accounts, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview that simplifies this complex legal process.

Understanding Probate

At its core, probating a will involves the legal process that takes place after a person dies to ensure their debts are paid and remaining assets are distributed according to their wishes. It’s a step taken to validate the will and administer the estate under the supervision of a probate judge. The process ensures that the decedent’s estate is properly managed and transferred to the surviving family members, as outlined in the will.

The Role of the Personal Representative and Probate Attorney

A personal representative, often nominated in the will, is tasked with administering the estate. This role, critical to the probate process, involves gathering the deceased’s assets, paying off any debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the rightful heirs. Depending on the complexity of the estate and the specific state law, a probate attorney may be hired to assist in navigating the legalities, including estate tax filings and court appearances.

Costs Involved in Probating a Will

One of the most common questions is, “What is the cost of probating a will?” The answer varies depending on several factors such as the estate’s size, the complexity of assets like real estate and bank accounts, and the state where the probate occurs. Costs can include filing fees, court fees, attorney’s fees, and other expenses related to administering the estate. These costs can significantly impact the estate’s value, emphasizing the importance of understanding and planning for these expenses.

Key Components of the Probate Process

  • Filing the Will: The process begins with filing the will with the probate court, accompanied by a filing fee. This step officially starts the probate process.
  • Notifying Interested Parties: Family members and creditors are notified, providing them the opportunity to make claims against the estate.
  • Paying Debts and Taxes: The personal representative ensures all debts, including estate tax, are paid. This may involve liquidating assets to cover the debts.
  • Distributing the Remaining Assets: After debts and taxes are settled, the remaining assets are distributed among the heirs as per the will’s instructions.
  • Closing the Estate: Once all steps are completed, the estate is officially closed with the court.

Assets That May Avoid Probate

Not all assets go through probate. Items like payable on death bank accounts and certain real estate holdings can transfer directly to beneficiaries without the need for probate, depending on the state law and how the assets are titled.


While the thought of probating a will might seem daunting, understanding the process helps demystify it. From knowing the roles of a personal representative and a probate attorney to understanding the costs involved, this knowledge empowers surviving spouses and family members to navigate the process more confidently. Remember, every estate is unique, and state laws vary, so consider consulting with a probate attorney to guide you through the specifics of your situation.

Contact the law offices of Alice Salvo for a free consultation