The word ‘probate’ originated from the Latin word ‘provar’ that means to prove. Probate is the process of establishing the authenticity of a will by the court of law. Will is a legal document that explains how a person’s property will be distributed after his/her death. Over the years, probate has taken wider meaning and is administered by the court of law.
The probate courts want to ensure the authenticity, i.e. the will claimed is originally prepared by the decedent without any pressure. It assumes there could be potential challenges to the validity of a will and hence gives proper time to contest for the same. If a decedent owe money to his/her creditors, court provide opportunity to claim for the same and if proven that has to be paid from the mentioned property/properties on the decedent’s will. The probate occurs in appropriate court in the state where the decedent permanently living at the time of death. In some of the states, courts empowered to carry probate process are simply called probate courts. However, some states refer these courts with different names, as in New York it is known as Surrogate court.
There are basically two purposes to have probate courts in the country. One is to transfer the title of decedent’s property to his or her beneficiary. And second is to pay the due taxes, if any.Every will has an executor name whose function is to marshal out the process of probate and to ensure that everything goes in accordance with the will. If the name of executor is not mentioned in the will court can appoint one for the same purpose. And if there is no will court appoints an estate administrator for the purpose.
There is a provision in some states of properties being automatically transferred to the spouse, if any, without the probate process. But the states that do not allow automatic transfer of property requires probate process for the transfer of title, even if there is no valid will.