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What Are The Purposes Of Probate?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

In my discussions with many clients over the years about completing a probate in Idaho, I’ve come to learn that most people don’t understand why or when a probate is necessary in Idaho. I’ve come to learn that many people erroneously believe that when there is a written last will and testament a probate doesn’t need to be done. This simply isn’t true.

A probate is required under Idaho law when a person passes away and they own real estate regardless of whether it is a home, or farm ground or bare ground. Additionally, a probate in Idaho is required anytime a person’s estate is worth more than $100,000 regardless of the type of property that is in it. Additionally, a probate may be required if the deceased person was going to receive a payment from a third-party such as insurance benefits, or litigation proceeds, or a payment from other types of accounts.

Knowing now whether a probate is needed for the person who passed away the next question and the focus of this article is: what are the purposes of probate? In other words, what is accomplished through the probate process.

Get a Personal Representative Appointed

The first purpose of a probate is having a person appointed as the personal representative for the estate. This is done through the probate process which includes filing a petition with the court and asking the court to appoint the individual as a personal representative and to begin the probate.

A probate cannot be completed until a personal representative is appointed. It is the personal representative that takes all the steps and does everything that is necessary in the probate to complete it. A person is appointed by a formal document that is signed, dated and entered by the court. This is called a Statement of Appointment which acts as a formal, legal Order by the court. There will also be an additional document known as Letters Testamentary (when there is a written Will) or Letters of Administration (when there is no written Will) that provides proof that the individual has been appointed by the court and that they have legal authority to act as a personal representative of the estate.

Take Care of All Creditors

The second purpose of probate, after the personal representative is appointed, is making sure that all creditors of the individual who passed away are paid. In other words, the valid debts of the decedent are required to be paid from the assets, money, and other property the decedent owns which becomes the probate estate.

The personal representative provides notice to all known creditors of the decedent’s passing. The personal representative also requests that these creditors provide an accounting, invoice or statement that proves the validity of the debt that is owed by the decedent. The personal representative also publishes notice to creditors in a newspaper so that any unknown creditors have an opportunity to file a claim against the estate. Unknown creditors have a specific amount of time in which to file their claim or their claim will be determined to be invalid.

The personal representative then analyzes and reviews the creditors’ claims that come in. If the personal representative believes that a claim is not valid, they challenge it in court. This gives the creditor an opportunity to provide additional evidence to try to validate the claim. Once claims are determined to be valid, the personal representative has the obligation of using the estate assets to pay these debts.

Distribute the Estate to the Beneficiaries

The third and final purpose of a probate is to allow the personal representative to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries. This requires a personal representative to determine who the beneficiaries are.

When there is a written last will and testament, the beneficiaries are named in the written will. However, when there is no written will then the personal representative is required to determine who the beneficiaries of the estate will be based on Idaho’s laws of intestacy. Once all heirs and beneficiaries are determined, the personal representative then distributes the money, property, and other assets that remain in the estate after all creditors are paid to these beneficiaries.

This article only provides a summary of the steps necessary to complete a probate. If you have questions, we encourage you to contact us for a free 30-minute consultation where we describe the probate process and give you a written diagram to help you remember what we’ve discussed. We’ve helped numerous clients through the probate process, and we are confident that we can help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney To Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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