The typical probate procedure depends on the jurisdiction in which a deceased's estate is settled. As a general rule, the executor of an estate reviews the estate and the deceased's will and determines whether the probate process is even necessary. If it is, the executor will begin the probate procedure by filing a request with the court that oversees the probate process and will begin the gathering of information about assets and debts, as well as notifying both heirs and creditors of the proceedings. After creditors are compensated from the estate, the executor can begin the process of providing the deceased's heirs with their inheritance. After both heirs and creditors are dealt with, the executor can close the estate.
In probate, a court oversees the management of a deceased person's estate by its executor or administrator. Not all estates must go through probate, however, as some individuals take steps to prevent the need for probate. In some areas, estates of relatively low value may not require probate.
When probate is required, the estate's executor, or person charged with its management, presents the case to the court. If the deceased did not write a will, the court may appoint an administrator, who performs essentially the same function as an executor. As the executor may be handling significant amounts of money, he may be required to place a bond that secures the estate against the possibility that he may make errors that could deplete the estate's value.
The executor must then search for and record all of the deceased's assets. In some cases, this can be a daunting task if the deceased did not leave behind documentation of his property and assets. Once the executor completes the inventory, he may have to have the property appraised to ensure an understanding of its value. At this point, he can begin to try and locate creditors. In some cases, a creditor may, as part of the probate procedure, be required to place an ad in a local newspaper announcing that the estate is in probate and imploring creditors to come forward. Executors usually attempt to provide extra time for creditors to come forward as a way of preventing an unknown creditor from suing heirs who have already received their inheritance.
Once the executor identifies creditors, she can then begin to judge whether or not their claims are valid and proceed to pay off the deceased's debts. After this point in the probate procedure, the executor can then ensure that the deceased's heirs receive their portion of the estate. At the conclusion of the distribution of assets, executors can inform the court that the probate procedure is complete so that a judge can review the work of the executor and declare the estate closed.