The probate process is proving whether a will is valid or not. If a person dies without a will the distribution of the estate is decided upon by state law.
If the will is proven valid an executor is appointed by the Probate Judge (usually the person nominated in the will) to fulfill the administration process as the final step in the probate process.
The duty of the executor or administrator is to account for what is in the estate, pay any lawful claims against the estate, and pay out the balance due to the beneficiaries of the will.
After the Judge approves the executor, the court Clerk will send out Letters of Authority authorizing the executor to enter the decedent’s bank accounts, sell cars, transfer or sell stocks and bonds, and collect insurance proceeds payable to the estate.
The executor must show the Court an accounting sheet and have a receipt or canceled check for every payment that is made. The final accounting process will end the executor’s fiduciary responsibility.
If a person dies without a will, the court will appoint a person to perform the function of the executor. This person is called an administrator. The administrator has all the same roles and responsibilities as the executor.
The most important thing you should know about the probate process is that it is COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE in almost every case when proper estate planning is conducted.