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probate

1) n. the process of proving a will is valid and thereafter administering the estate of a dead person according to the terms of the will. The first step is to file the purported will with the clerk of the appropriate court in the county where the deceased person lived, along with a petition to have the court approve the will and appoint the executor named in the will (or if none is available, an administrator) with a declaration of a person who had signed the will as a witness. If the court determines the will is valid, the court then "admits" the will to probate. 2) n. a general term for the entire process of administration of estates of dead persons, including those without wills, with court supervision. The means of "avoiding" probate exist, including creating trusts in which all possessions are handled by a trustee, making lifetime gifts or putting all substantial property in joint tenancy with an automatic right of survivorship in the joint owner. Even if there is a will, probate may not be necessary if the estate is small with no real estate title to be transferred or all of the estate is either jointly owned or community property. Reasons for avoiding probate are the fees set by statute and/or the court (depending on state laws) for attorneys, executors and administrators, the need to publish notices, court hearings, paperwork, the public nature of the proceedings and delays while waiting for creditors to file claims even when the deceased owed no one. 3) v. to prove a will in court and proceed with administration of a deceased's estate under court supervision. 4) adj. reference to the appropriate court for handling estate matters, as in "probate court."

See also: executor  will  administrator 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications