The probate process is important for protecting all of the property left by the deceased. The court oversees the entire process to ensure that the personal representative of the estate distributes all of the assets according to the wishes of the deceased. If no will exists the court might attempt to execute the estate in a way that is fair to the decedent's heirs. The court also oversees debt payments, attorney payments and the payment of fees for the personal representative.
The court appoints the personal representative based on the will of the deceased, but if the deceased did not name a representative for the estate, the court normally appoints the closest living relative. The personal representative could also be a trust company or bank. This representative is responsible for identifying and collecting the estate's assets as well as collecting on all debts due to the estate. The representative must also locate all heirs and distribute all property to them after paying any outstanding debts and applicable taxes.
If the deceased owned any property in another state, the estate would need ancillary administration in that state to handle those assets. The probate process can take a long time to complete, but it ensures that all property and assets go to the rightful heirs and creditors. It also provides a way to transfer ownership of real estate and other property from the deceased to the heirs with a clear chain of title.
When creating a will, it is important to consider who could properly handle the estate administration process. An attorney may be able to help a client draft a will and advise that client on the different qualities that might make an estate administrator effective.