Probate is a judicial process in which a probate court supervises the distribution of assets and property left by a deceased person in their Will or according to intestate statutes, if there is no Will. This includes anything of value a person owned at death.
Probate is required to clear title to land, stocks and bonds, or large bank or savings and loan accounts that were held solely in the name of the deceased person, to collect debts owed to the deceased person, and settle disputes between beneficiaries or heirs.
However, if a person dies leaving just a few possessions, such as personal belongings or household goods, these items can be distributed among the Will beneficiaries by the named personal representative without involving the court. Also, whatever the deceased owned in co-ownership, such as joint bank accounts, pass automatically to the surviving co-owner.