Every probate case has a probate judge. Depending up the speed of probate, you may never even meet this judge, but it’s important to understand his or her duties in the tricky probate process.
How intense the obligations of your probate judge are will depend upon the size of the probated estate, whether any aspect of the estate is contested, and if the deceased had a Last Will and Testament.
If there is a Will and all members of the family agree on probate issues then the judge’s duties may simply include signing basic probate orders. These orders will name the estate executor, who is likely already named in the Will. The probate orders will also allow probate to open, property to be appraised and sold or passed to beneficiaries and for the estate to close when all has settled.
When estate challenges occur, then a Judge will be more involved and actual court time may be required. In this case, the judge will listen to both sides and have a final say on the challenged issue. The probate judge may even be called to examine the performance of the estate executor.
So what if there is no Will? This can present a more complicated situation. In this case the biggest question is if the family members can agree who to appoint as administrator of the estate. If so, judicial probate duties may again be simply signing probate orders.
If, however, there is no Will and family members do not see eye-to-eye on estate matters, the probate judge will likely be very involved in the process. The judge will choose an estate administrator, likely a stranger, but will still have to keep a constant watch over probate happenings. This may require quite a bit of time in court, and this is the number one reason you should make a Last Will and Testament. Having the proper estate documents in place can make probate easier for every participant in the process, and may well save your loved ones time and money.