Probate is a Process.
Probate is a process by which we settle the affairs (debts, assets, and property) of an estate before the court. The term probate comes from the Latin probare, “to test or prove.” Probate is simply how we determine who should be in charge of handling the winding up of an estate and where the assets should go.
When someone dies with a will in place the first thing you, as a potential beneficiary, will want to know is what it says. Hopefully, your loved one will tell you in advance that you are a beneficiary or whether you’re a personal representative (executor/trix), and where the will is located. After the will has been read the next step will be to start the probate process. As long as there aren’t any disputes as to the validity of the will nor disputes as to who should be the personal representative then this should be a fairly simple and straightforward process. Here, in Montana, probate normally is started through a filing process with the local clerk of court. This is called “informal probate.” Basically, your attorney will notify (send an “application” to) the clerk of the local district court that Jane Doe has been appointed as the personal representative of said estate and that Jane should be given letters of her appointment as personal representative. The clerk then signs an order appointing Jane Doe and issues letters of appointment. This is how most probates work.