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)