Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s assets are collected, notice given and his debts paid, and the remainder distributed among the heirs (those who receive if there is no Will), or devisees (those who receive due to the Will). The process enforces a Will in distributing a net estate, if there is a Will. Without a Will, there are statutes governing the shares of various relatives. It is often the need to transfer titles of assets which results in the probating of a Will, although the process also provides protection from later claims of creditors. Taxes returns for the decedent, and for the estate, can be required. Since the estate may have no liquid assets, financing the probate can be a concern. Attorney fees must be approved by the Probate Court, so they are generally paid well into the probate, or at the final distribution, after the assets have been sold.
Often, on small estates, there is a need to transfer the title to just a few assets, perhaps motor vehicles. There is a small estate affidavit which can be used as a substitute for a full probate, making it quicker and less expensive.