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When a person dies, he or she usually leaves behind some mix of assets (things the person owned) and debts (things the person owed to someone). Probate is the legal process of settling the deceased’s debts and distributing any remaining assets.

If the deceased had a will naming an executor, the named person will be in charge of handling probate. If the deceased did not have a will, the court will appoint someone to this role. The administrator will first need to inventory the deceased’s property and have it appraised. Then he or she will need to pay the deceased’s debts (including owed taxes). Finally, the administrator will distribute any property that is left.

The probate process can be simple or complex, depending on factors like the size of the deceased’s estate, whether he or she had a valid will, and what kind of property was left behind (some types of property don’t go through probate).

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