Understanding Probate Law
Whether you have a handwritten or typewritten will, its validity must be proved in court. This procedure is known as probate, and it generally must take place within four years after death.
To probate a will, it must be established in court that the will meets the requirements of execution (see earlier discussion) and that the will was not canceled or revoked. Additionally, unless the will is “self-proved,” proof of a handwritten will requires the testimony of two witnesses to the testator’s handwriting and proof of a typewritten will requires the testimony of one of the attesting witnesses. A self-proved will is one that has attached a specific form of affidavit containing certain required statements which is executed before a notary public at the time the will is signed or anytime thereafter but before the testator dies. A standard notary acknowledgment alone is insufficient to make the will “self-proved.” A self-proved will is admitted to probate on the basis of the self-proving affidavit and there is no need to call witnesses.
A will that is not proved in court is denied probate. In this event, the decedent’s property passes to his or her heirs as if he or she died without a will. Again, this further emphasizes how important it is to execute a will which meets all legal requirements so that property will pass as the testator wishes. After proving the validity of a will, the next step in the probate process is the administration of the estate.
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