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Whether an estate will have to be probated depends on how the decedent’s property is titled when he or she dies. For example, some or all of a decedent’s property, such as jointly held property where there is a right of survivorship, the proceeds from a life insurance policy or a bank or retirement account that names a beneficiary, may not be part of the probate estate because it passes directly to another person by operation of law. Property that's held in a trust created by the decedent also may not need to be probated.
Typically, it's necessary to probate the decedent’s estate if you need to:
In most cases, the court appoints a person called a personal representative to collect, manage, and transfer estate property to the devisees or heirs. If the decedent left a will, the court determines if the decedent’s will is valid. A qualified person with legal priority has the right to be appointed personal representative of the estate above all others.
The general rule is that an estate must be probated within 3 years of the decedent’s date of death. This deadline doesn't apply to a voluntary administration, determination of heirs, or ancillary probate proceeding.