Probate: What is it?

If you  have had reason to think about or discuss Probate, often that idea or conversation iis shrouded in uncertainty, which causes people to fear it.

The most obvious aspect about Probate that causing anxiety is that it involves death.

With mortality rate hovering right around 100%, chances are that you will deal with Probate at least once, in one context or another.

So, what is Probate? It is simply the administrative process of shutting down a deceased person’s financial life. There is more detail involved, but that is one sentence overview of Probate, which involves five basic steps detailed below.

First, if there is a Last Will and Testament, it must be validated by the Courts in Idaho. In fact, that is the definition of probate, to validate one’s Will.

  • Idaho law requires that a deceased person’s Will be filed in the county where the person resided before death or whichever County he or she owned real property in. Generally, there is no real benefit to selecting one county over another, as all rules are relatively similar.

Second, if there is a Will, it should name the person who will be in charge of carrying out the orders the Will sets in place.  Idaho law typically refers to that person as the Personal Representative (PR), but you may have heard of administrator or executor.

  • Maybe you didn’t create a Will. There is still a possibility the your estate needs to go through Probate. If there is no Will appointing a PR, Idaho law specifies who is entitled to be appointed.  Typically, that will be a surviving spouse if there is one. If not, then the surviving children are entitled to the appointment. [insert prior family dynamics here, and see the potential for disaster.] To me personally, naming a PR is the most important aspect of creating a Will.

Third, the appointed PR gathers all of the deceased person’s assets. This step can be difficult and time consuming.  If you fail to provide guidance for the PR, it can result in extra time and effort from the PR, to which he or she is entitled to a reasonable fee for their efforts. To assist in this step, I provide a binder that contains all the estate planning documents and it has an additional section for the client to organize all of the financial aspects of his or her life.

Fourth, after all of the assets have been gathered, the PR pays any bills of the deceased person. These bills can come from creditors, taxes, etc. The bills are either known or unknown. To find out about unknown bills, the court requires filing a Notice to Creditors. Here in the Boise, Meridian, and Eagle area, you would file the notice with a local newspaper. I.e. Idaho Business Review, The Idaho Statesman, or Press Tribune.

Fifth, after the period of time required for the Notice to Creditor and if there are no on-going disputes concerning the Estate, the PR then distributes the assets according to the Will or, if no Will, to the Heirs at Law and the Estate closes. Thus ending Probate.

Each step of the process works out differently, because each person and their situation is different. But, that is the basic structure of Probate.

If you would like to set up your Will and would like a free initial consultation, please contact Justin at 208-477-1785 or visit for more information.