Probate generally refers to a court proceeding in which the validity of a deceased person’s Will is established. Over time, the term has come to be viewed more expansively. Today, the term “Probate” is seen as the legal process by which a deceased person’s property is transferred to either, (1) those persons named in the deceased person’s Will or, if there is no Will, (2) to the deceased person’s heirs, as those heirs are determined by state law.
All of the property that belonged to the deceased person is referred to as his “estate.” Before the assets of the estate can be transferred to the persons named in the Will or to the heirs, the decedent’s legal, financial and business affairs must be concluded. This process is called “administration.” If the decedent left a Will, the Probate Court will appoint the person that the Will names as the“executor” to administer the estate. If there is no Will, the Probate Court will appoint an”administrator” to administer the estate.