What is Probate

“Probate” refers to the court process that is often necessary after a person has died. Probate is necessary when someone dies owning property that does not have a beneficiary designation, a joint owner, or does not have "pay on death" (POD) or "transfer on death" (TOD) designation. If ALL of a person’s property transfers automatically to someone at death, through one of these mechanisms, probate may not be necessary. Most people, however, own some property only in their name and without a beneficiary designation. It is this property that must go through probate in order to determine its rightful owner.

In the probate process, the Court (either a Judge or Magistrate) will authorize a person (or multiple people) to act on behalf of the deceased’s estate, which refers to their property including real estate, investments and personal effects. This person is called the personal representative (PR). Once appointed, the personal representative will be able to access the deceased person’s property, including bank accounts, to ensure that they are distributed as required by the decedent’s will or by law if there is no will.