Formal and Informal Probate
There are two general types of probate estates: formal and informal. The main distinction lies in whether or not there is a dispute about an underlying Will (or whether there is a Will at all).
When there are multiple Wills, conflicting Wills, or disputes about the validity of a Will, formal probate is typically the best option. This is a formalized procedure done in front of a judge that allows the evidence to be presented and ruled upon. The Court then decides which Will is valid, if any, and typically appoints a Personal Representative. This gives the parties closure and is occasionally the only way to move forward when there are two or more opposed parties. Formal probate involves more time and can be costly depending on the disputes and facts involved.
Informal probate, on the other hand, is a less expensive procedure that is best used when there is no real dispute about a Will or the distribution of assets. Informal probate still has to be filed with the Court but typically does not result in many, if any, hearings or other time-consuming court procedures. Informal estates are also easier to close than formal probates, however it is strongly recommended to have an attorney in both instances.
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