The Role and Responsibilities of a Probate Court Judge

When a life partner dies, the surviving spouse needs to manage the deceased’s belongings, estates, properties, and debts. This is usually handled with the help of a probate court. In some cases, however, there is no last will and testament, or there is no consent to their terms, so a probate judge is needed to solve the matter.

Probate Advance handle various affairs, such as wills, estates, guardianships, and, in some states, adoption matters. The documents are authenticated there, and the mental stability of a person who signs them is validated. The probate court judge makes sure that the deceased person’s belongings are in the beneficient’s hands. Hence, their role is of great significance, as managing the deceased’s will is never a pleasant matter while grieving.

When There’s an Uncontested Will

When a deceased person leaves their last will and testament, and everybody consents to it, a probate judge’s role is to distribute the estates and properties to the people and organizations that they were signed over to. It’s crucial that there is no dispute among all the people included in the will. The judge also authenticates the document and checks whether it’s valid or not.

Then, if all the documents are signed, they’re presented to the executor responsible for the estate proceedings.

When There’s a Contested Will

However, in some cases, despite the will of the deceased ones, the people who are involved tend to disagree with it or demand an adequate provision. This situation is what the courts call a “contested will”. Then, a probate judge’s role is to validate it and determine whether the person who disagrees has the right to do so.

For example, if a mother died unexpectedly and didn’t mention her daughter in the testament, whom she hadn’t been in touch with for years, and left everything to her son, the daughter might demand a provision. The probate judge determines whether the omission was deliberate and checks if it’s legal according to the state law.

When There’s No Will

In the instance of an unexpected death, chances are that the deceased has not even prepared their last will. Then, according to the state’s probate law, the inheritance of assets is determined in probate court. In each state, the surviving spouse inherits part of the property.

But the probate judge has to assess who gets the rest of the descendant’s properties. It’s required to go through the process of court-supervised distribution of the assets of the deceased. It’s called the law of intestate succession, and the distribution all depends on the state’s law.

When Significant Debts Are Involved

Sometimes the friends and relatives don’t know how much their deceased family member’s property is worth. The judge’s responsibility is to assess its value, including all the debts. The probate judge has to evaluate the value of the debts and decide who inherits them.

In other cases, the probate judge can contact the executor who collects the properties in order to pay the creditors to get rid of the debts instead of leaving them to the heirs.

Guardianship

In some states, a probate judge also decides on the incapacities of adults who need guardians. They decide whether a person who needs care can get it and handle the matter of children left without custody after the unexpected deaths. A probate judge can decide on the adoption. If there’s a child under 18, it’s the probate judge who makes the decisions on their behalf. The court can also end a guardianship if the incapacitated parents become able to take care of the child again.

Additionally, they can make decisions regarding the hospitalization of the mentally ill. In some cases, they can decide whether it’s legal to withdraw all the life-sustaining treatment of a hospitalized person, so the decision is a matter of life and death. 

This issue might occur, for example, when a spouse claims that there’s no value in the life of their wife or husband as she is near to death, but other family members want to sustain their life no matter what. The probate judge makes the difficult decision of whether to continue treatment or not.

Conclusion

Even if the ones who’ve passed didn’t leave a lot of properties to deal with, there’s a strong probability that during your lifetime, you’ll attend a probate process. Not all property is required to go through the probate, and it’s of greater importance if the wealth was significant. However, as it might be extended, plenty of people try to avoid that process.

Still, the probate judge’s role is crucial. When loved ones pass away, it’s not easy to handle the matter of their assets, but it’s impossible to escape it. The probate process might not be the most pleasant moment of one’s life, mainly when a disagreement among beneficiaries occurs. A lot of the time, however, it is the necessary and right thing to do. 

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