Probate is a legal court proceeding, supervised by a probate court judge, that is used to gather a deceased person’s assets, pay creditors, court costs, and taxes and then distribute what is left to those entitled to receive it. In probate proceedings, the court sets the time limit in which creditors may file claims. The probate estate cannot be closed until the period for filing claims has expired and settlement with each creditor has been resolved. In general, you can expect a probate proceeding to last one year or longer. There have been many notable cases that have been tied up in probate court for several years.

The probate process allows creditors to make claims for debts incurred during the deceased’s lifetime and allows the estate to pursue other legal actions pertaining to the decedent. Notice of the probate proceeding must be given to all known creditors and to all creditors who might be known after careful investigation. It must also be given to all relatives who may be legal heirs, even if they are not included in the will.