After your death, probate will occur in a specialized civil court, states the Indiana Judicial Branch. The probate process encompasses identifying and inventorying your property, proving that your will is valid, appraising your property, paying off your debts and taxes and distributing any remaining property as your will dictates. 

The executor named in your will takes over the job of handling the probate process. If you do not name an executor in your will, the court will name an administrator to take over probate for your estate. 

The probate process  

Probate is a multistep process that typically goes as follows: 

  • Your executor files paperwork with the local probate court and proves the validity of your will. 
  • Your relatives and creditors receive notification of your death. 
  • Your executor finds and secures your assets, a process that can take up to a year. 

The court will eventually grant the executor of your estate permission to divide your property as outlined in your estate plan and pay off your debts and taxes. Once your heirs receive the property included in your estate is when the probate process concludes. 

Not all property undergoes probate  

A certain amount of your property may not have to go through the probate process at all, or it can undergo a simplified probate process for faster transfer. Property included in a living trust or joint tenancy property also does not have to undergo probate. 

Whether you should put effort into avoiding the probate process as you create your estate plan depends on several factors. These include the extent of your estate, your current health and your age. If you are in good health and relatively young, you may have to redo your probate avoidance plan as your life changes over time. Additionally, if you do not own very much property, your estate may not qualify to undergo the probate process.