Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary


The court-supervised process following a person's death that includes
  • proving the authenticity of the deceased person's will
  • appointing someone to handle the deceased person's affairs
  • identifying and inventorying the deceased person's property
  • paying debts and taxes
  • identifying heirs, and
  • distributing the deceased person's property according to the will or, if there is no will, according to state law.
Formal probate is a costly, time-consuming process that is best avoided if possible. Most states now offer simplified probate procedures for estates of relatively small value. (See also: administrator, executor, personal representative)