The definition of probate is "the court process by which a will is proved valid or invalid." When a person dies, a probate court determines if the will should go through probate.
If someone dies without a will, the probate court appoints a personal representative to distribute the estate according to the law. The process of probate generally includes collecting a person's assets, paying all necessary taxes, liquidating liabilities and distributing property to heirs. The procedure was codified in the Uniform Probate Code in 1969 by the American Bar Association. Today, the UPC has been adopted in 16 states. The remaining states have also adopted parts of the UPC.