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Probate, and How to Avoid It

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Learn more about Heather at NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor.

The topic of probate raises many questions, but the most frequently asked is a simple one: How can I avoid it?

First, let’s understand what probate is. Probate is the legal process used to determine whether a deceased person’s will is genuine and valid. Probate also determines who the beneficiaries are when someone dies without a will, also known as “intestate.”

Probate courts appoint an executor, who has the authority to dispose of the deceased’s assets either as outlined by the will or as decided by the court, generally in cases of no will.

>> MORE: What you need to know about estate planning

The probate process has some drawbacks. It can take months, even years, to settle....

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