Probate involves the process of proving the decedent’s Will is valid.  

It also involves the process of marshalling and distributing the decedent’s property.  This is done by a person or entity known as the personal representative (or executor).   If there is no Will, the marshalling and distribution of the decedent’s property is done by a person or entity known as an administrator.  

Probate may involve the listing of the probate property, the values for each of those properties, and an accounting showing the money and property that has been received and paid out by the estate.

The entire process, supervised by the court, usually takes about a year or two. Sometimes, substantial distributions from the estate may be made in the interim.

The emotional trauma brought on by the death of a close family member often is accompanied by bewilderment about the financial and legal steps the survivors must take. Perhaps a child must begin handling of an estate about which he or she knows little. And this task may come on top of commitments to family and work that can't be set aside. Finally, the estate itself may be in disarray or scattered among many accounts.

You can make it easier for your heirs by keeping good records of your assets and liabilities.