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Probate is judicial proceeding by which a testamentary document is established to be a valid will

Upon legal recognition being granted to the will or other document, a probate court will appoint an executor to administer the estate of the deceased and distribute assets to the intended beneficiaries. If a person dies intestate (without a valid will), the probate court will distribute the decedent’s estate according to state law.

Unless set aside, the probate of a will is conclusive upon the parties to the proceedings, and others who had notice of the proceedings, on all questions of testamentary capacity, the absence of fraud or undue influence, and due execution of the will. Probate does not preclude inquiry into the validity of the will's provisions or on their proper construction or legal effect.

New York’s SCPA §1408 requires that a probate court “inquire particularly into all the facts and must be satisfied with the genuineness of the will and the validity of its execution” before assets can be distributed.

More generally, probate as an adjective can refer to all subjects that fall under the jurisdiction of probate courts, which vary by state.

[Last updated in January of 2024 by the Wex Definitions Team]