“Probate” refers to the act of “proving” the will of a deceased person is valid.
The “Probate Process” refers to the entire court process of administration of a deceased person’s estate. This process involves “probating” a deceased person’s will, naming a personal representative, collecting and distributing assets, notifying and dealing with creditors, and handling any expenses and taxes. Probate is usually required for assets owned in one’s own name.
There are procedures that streamline probate for smaller estates and for surviving spouses.
Individuals often wish to avoid probate because it is a slow and sometimes costly process. We are fairly lucky in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in that the probate process is not as costly or time-consuming as in some states (like California or Florida) but it still involves time, effort, and money (including paying executors and/or attorneys). You can imagine why avoiding probate might be a good idea.
Another benefit of avoiding probate is to maintain privacy. Because probate proceedings are a public record, details of a deceased person’s debts, finances, and gifts to heirs are discoverable by the public.