Probate is a series of interactions with the court following a person’s death. These interactions deal with the distribution of the decedent’s property to the heirs.
If the decedent’s estate is small the heirs may never have to be involved with the court. For the smaller estate proper planning by using tools such as holding property in joint tenancy and “pay on death” financial accounts can avoid the necessity for court intervention.
Where there is no will, the decedent’s property passes to the heirs through “intestacy” as established by the laws of the state.
Where the decedent had a will the validity of the document is established as part of the probate process. An executor is appointed to manage the decedent’s wishes as set forth in the will. The decedent who has written a will is some times called the “testator”.