When Is Probate Necessary for an Estate?

Law Blog

One possibility that often hangs over an estate is the possibility that it will go to probate. This is a process where the court deals with any potentially unresolved issues involving an estate. People often wonder whether it is necessary, so here is a look at the reasons why it might be.

General Administrative Work

This is the most boring of all reasons for probate. Simply put, probate courts process all estates regardless of whether there are issues. Much of this is just due diligence to make sure no one has any objections to the handling of the estate. It also guarantees there will be public announcements that the estate is under consideration, ensuring that parties' rights are protected. In this scenario, the court does little more than sign off on everything.

Incompleteness or Ambiguity

Try as folks may, it's hard to anticipate every possible outcome for an estate. Usually, an executor can address this problem by following the outlines of the decedent's will and acting accordingly.

However, there might be times when the executor has nothing to act on. Likewise, a beneficiary may hire a probate attorney because they believe the will is incomplete or ambiguous. In this scenario, the judge reviews the problem areas of the will and instructs the executor about how to proceed.

No Executor

When there isn't an executor to implement the terms of the will, a court will have to appoint an administrator. A court-appointed administrator does the job of the executor, but they may have to report back to the judge a bit more often.

Automatic Requirements

Some states have laws that kick estates into the probate system once a certain amount of assets are at stake. This can vary from a few thousand to more than a hundred thousand dollars.

Mental Incompetency or Undue Influence

If something affected the ability of the estate's grantor to dictate a will at the time of signing, that may be grounds for probate. Mental incompetency is a common reason, usually due to degraded facilities from aging or injury.

Undue influence covers circumstances where somebody unfairly encouraged changes to a will that adversely affected the beneficiaries. This frequently overlaps with claims of mental incompetency.

Lack of a Will

In the absence of a will, the court is supposed to step in. A judge will assess what's known about the decedent's desires for the disposition of the estate. In this scenario, the court appoints an administrator who follows the judge's assessment of the deceased's wishes.


18 May 2021