After that, the executor is in charge of protecting the estate's assets, identifying and valuing them, paying the debts and expenses of the deceased person, and, in the end, distributing the assets as directed by the will.
If a person left a will, but dies with a small estate, as determined by each state, the estate does not need to go through a formal probate proceeding.
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If, after a thorough search, no one can find a will at all, you'll have to conclude that there is no will.
In that case, the person's estate will be subject to the state's rules about how inherits when there is no will.
Instead, reading a will is like reading any legal document--take it slow, look up words that you do not know, and focus on what the document actually says, as opposed to what you wish it would say. The purpose of probate is to make sure that a deceased person's wishes are respected and that their property is distibuted as directed by their will.
When you are reading a will, here's what you need to find out: If the value of a person's estate is above a certain limit, called a "small estates limit," their estate must go through a probate proceeding before assets can be distributed to the people who inherit the assets. The person named in the will as the executor, or personal representative, is appointed by the court.
Most people store their wills with their other important papers, sometimes in a safe deposit box, sometimes in a fireproof safe or cabinet in their homes, sometimes just in a box with other important papers.
Ideally, you want to find the original, signed will, not a copy.
A will also names an executor, also called a personal representative, who is the person who will settle the estate, and, if a probate is necessary, be appointed as the legal representative of the estate until it is distributed to the will's beneficiaries.