Probate

Court proceeding by which a will is proved valid or invalid. Term used to mean all proceedings pertaining to the administration of estates such as the process by which assets are gathered; applied to pay debts, taxes, and expenses of administration; and distributed to those designated as beneficiaries in the will. Conducted in states courts.

Source: U.S. Courts


When a person dies, you might have to come to probate court if:

  • the person' property did not pass on automatically according to the title or arrangements such as joint tenancy, community property, or a trust, AND
  • the estate is large enough that the property cannot pass on as a small estate.
Probate court is not generally very difficult. Almost always the case is handled as an informal probate, which means that court orders are signed simply by filing paperwork at court, and without supervision by a judge and any court hearings. Even if part of the case is handled formally, which means a court hearing is necessary to straighten out some detail, the rest of the case can be informal.

Source: Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County


The judicial process to determine if a will of a dead person (called the "decedent") is genuine or not; lawful distribution of a decedent's estate.

Source: California Courts.