After someone dies, their remaining assets and property are identified and then distributed dependent upon existing instructions, legal mechanisms (such as trusts), and laws. This may bring to mind dramatic will readings held in wood-paneled rooms among a gathering of the family and friends of the deceased. In reality, the process is often straightforward and absent of shocking moments worthy of daytime soap operas.
However, it’s common for a portion of the process to take place in a courtroom—namely, probate court. The probate process takes different forms depending on how prepared someone’s estate was before they passed away. On the most general level its purpose is to validate an existing last will and testament, determine the executor of the estate, identify and locate the deceased’s assets, paying debts owed to creditors through estate assets, and then distributing remaining assets among inheritors.