Probate is the process that transfers legal title of property from the estate of the person who has died (the "decedent") to his or her proper beneficiaries.
The term "probate" refers to a "proving" of the existence of a valid Will, or determining and "proving" who one's legal heirs are if there is no Will. Since the deceased can't take it with him, probate is the process used to determine who gets his or her property.
The primary function of probate is transferring title of the decedentís property to his heirs and/or beneficiaries. If there is no property to transfer, there is usually no need for probate.
Another function of probate is to provide for the collection of any taxes due by reason of the deceased's death or on the transfer of his or her property.
The probate process also provides a mechanism for payment of outstanding debts and taxes of the estate, for setting a deadline for creditors to file claims (thus foreclosing any old or unpaid creditors from haunting heirs or beneficiaries) and for the distribution of the remainder of the estate's property to ones' rightful heirs.
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