Probate is the process that ensures that the correct persons inherit the property of a person who has passed away and that the correct person is authorized to serve as the Executor or Personal Representative.
At the outset, that involves a legal proceeding to determine whether the person who died left a Last Will and Testament. And if multiple Wills are located, the court will determine which one was truly the Last Will and Testament.
If no Will is found, then the court will determine that the person passed away without a Will.
In either case, the court will also determine who is legally entitled to inherit the deceased person’s property and possession and who is entitled to serve as the Executor of the estate.
Until a court has made these determinations, the questions of who is entitled to inherit the property and who has the responsibility of making sure that everything goes to the correct heir are open to debate. This is why things tend to grind to a halt when a person passes away until someone (typically a surviving spouse or child) has gone to the court to initiate the probate process.
And as much as we all might wish for the process to be easier, these steps are crucial to ensure that the property is inherited by the persons who are legally entitled to do so. Otherwise, these situations tend to break down into a tug-of-war between various family members and friends. The probate process enables the local court to mediate conflicting claims and hopefully avoid unnecessary injury to the relationships between the loved ones left behind.