Generally it is necessary to go through probate or, in the case of smaller estates, a less formal procedure that is still under the general supervision of the probate court, before the deceased’s property can be legally distributed.
When a person dies with a will, a court generally has to have an opportunity to allow others to object to the will, and if there are any objections, to determine if the will is valid, because it is always possible that:
- there was a later will (which, if valid, would replace the older will);
- the will was made at a time the deceased was not mentally competent to make a will;
- the will was the result of fraud, mistake or undue influence;
- the Will was not properly executed;
- the so-called will is actually a forgery; or
- there are other claims against the deceased’s estate that impact what the beneficiaries under the will would receive.