Probate Proceedings

Probate Proceedings: Overview

Traditionally, the term “probate” included the procedural acts necessary to establish the legal validity of a will and governed the procedural administration of a decedent’s estate involving a will. However, in more modern terminology, “probate” contemplates the procedures for administering a decedent’s estate, whether with or without a will. In most states such procedures are handled by the Probate Court. States assign jurisdiction for probate matters to different courts, some to a special court only for this purpose, others to the courts which hold general jurisdiction over all civil matters. An individual dies intestate when he or she dies without leaving a valid will. An individual dies testate when he or she dies leaving a properly executed will. Both intestate and testate estates are normally administered by the Probate Court.


When an individual dies he or she continues to hold ownership of property. Title remains vested in the deceased person until such time as it is conveyed by sale by the executor, administrator, or personal representative doing estate administration or transferred by court order or judicial determination. When notified that the record title holder is deceased, you should show title in (name) deceased” (the name of deceased title holder). However, this may vary depending on the laws of your state.


Whenever you are asked to insure property which is part of a decedent’s estate, you should confirm that probate proceedings have been instituted to properly dispose of the property, and that all applicable estate taxes have been paid. If the inheritance and federal estate taxes have not been paid, they should be shown as exceptions on the title policy.