|What is Probate Law?
|The Law Offices of Steven S. Alkema specialize in probate
law. But, what is probate law?
|Many people are familiar with the word “probate” if only vaguely.
They have likely heard it mentioned at one time or another in
connection with the death of a loved one, or an acquaintance-or even
in connection with a stranger in the news.
Although the term "probate" exists in their peripheral knowledge, most
individuals do not have a clear understanding of what it is or what it
Simply put, probate is the process by which an individual's estate
passes from him or her (upon death) to his or her heirs, often the next
In the past most estates had to pass through the court system in order
to be transferred to the next generation. This process dates back to a
time before the United States was founded and has much historical
precedent. Although the process of probating an estate has a
venerable and lengthy history, it has changed over the years, and
continues to change.
As the law now stands there are now numerous vehicles by which an
estate can pass to the next generation. Under some circumstances the
entire estate can even be settled and distributed without ever involving
the courts. It is important to remember, however, that the manner in
which property is transferred is not a choice that can be made after an
individual dies, but relies upon the choices the individual made before
Probate law, therefore, primarily encompasses the areas of law that
are concerned with the transfer of an estate upon the death of an
individual. Examining our home page, you were able to see that other
areas perhaps seemingly unconnected are also included in the area of
probate law, specifically conservatorships and guardianships. Other
pages on our website explain the various areas of probate, including
these two proceedings.
In navigating your way through our website , it may be advisable to
begin with an introduction to the vocabulary used. Like many other
fields, probate proceedings have their own unique language. If, like
most people, you do not have more than a vague understanding of
probate law, consider looking first through "Some Definitions" .