Probate is a court-supervised process during which someone is granted legal permission to settle a deceased person’s debts and distribute their assets. Debts and assets comprise a deceased person’s “estate.” Probate courts impose certain requirements that govern the settling of estates, and these must be fulfilled following court-set timelines. Requirements and deadlines vary from state to state.
Selling probate property requires compliance with court-set requirements and schedules. Selling a non-probate property is easier because the court is not involved and there are no timelines or court-imposed requirements to deal with.
The probate process has its own vocabulary. It is helpful to get familiar with the following terms.
Will: The court-recognized document in which a person says what should happen to his or her possessions and assets.
Trust: An instrument in which one person (the trustee) holds property belonging to another person (the settlor) for an heir or beneficiary.
Custodian of the Will: The person who has the will when the writer of the will dies.
Decedent: A person who has died.
Beneficiary: A person who inherits the assets of a decedent.
Executor: A person appointed by a probate court (and usually named in a decedent’s will) to handle the affairs of the decedent’s estate and sell real property.