When someone dies, the term "probate" usually refers to the legal process whereby the deceased's assets are collected together and, following various legal and fiscal steps and processes, eventually distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate. Technically the term has a particular legal meaning, but it is generally used within the English legal profession as a term to cover all procedures concerned with the administration of a deceased person's estate. As a legal discipline the subject is vast and it is only possible in an article such as this to cover the most common situations, but even that only scratches the surface.
The probate court also has jurisdiction to hear lawsuits appertaining to or incident to an estate of a decedent or ward and actions by or against a personal representative of an estate of a decedent or ward. It is common for the court to hear any type of civil litgation, including personal injury, property damage, breach of fiduciary duty and family law. The probate courts are charged with the responsibility of independently maintaining contact with every person under a guardianship each year. This is done through court visitor programs developed and maintained by each court.
^ Jump up to: a b For the United States, see e.g., "When Someone Dies - A Non-Lawyer's Guide to Probate in Washington, DC". Lawhelp.org. Council for Court Excellence. Retrieved 20 September 2017., Larson, Aaron (13 June 2017). "How Probate Works". ExpertLaw. Retrieved 20 September 2017., "Wills, Estates, and Probate". Judicial Branch of California. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
A codicil, which is a supplement to a will, is entitled to be probated together with the will it modifies, if it is properly executed according to statute. If it is complete in itself and can stand as a separate testamentary instrument independent of the will, the codicil alone can be admitted to probate. A codicil that has been subsequently revoked by another codicil is not entitled to probate.
Probate usually works like this: After your death, the person you named in your will as executor—or, if you die without a will, the person appointed by a judge—files papers in the local probate court. The executor proves the validity of your will and presents the court with lists of your property, your debts, and who is to inherit what you've left. Then, relatives and creditors are officially notified of your death.
After opening the probate case with the court, the personal representative inventories and collects the decedent's property. Next, he pays any debts and taxes, including estate tax in the United States, if the estate is taxable at the federal or state level. Finally, he distributes the remaining property to the beneficiaries, either as instructed in the will, or under the intestacy laws of the state.
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