Here's the sort of shocker that many people experience after a loved one dies: The will, which once divided everything fairly among the heirs, somehow became slanted to heavily favor just one relative. Maybe everyone else is even completely cut out of the new will. Perhaps all the relatives are cut out and suddenly a "dear friend" now stands to inherit the deceased's entire estate.
When the legendary singer Aretha Franklin died, she left behind no will to control her estate -- or so everyone thought.
Your close relative dies and you expect to inherit a considerable portion of their estate -- only to find out that you were recently cut out of the will. You have a sneaking suspicion that your relative was being heavily influenced by the new beneficiary of that will. You're understandably upset and angry.
Probate is one of those terms that people hear a lot but do not have a good understanding of what it means. In the simplest language possible, probate is a legal process in which a deceased person's estate is settled, meaning that the assets are distributed and the debts are paid. These tasks typically fall to the executor named in the decedent's will. While this sounds pretty easy, probate can be quite complicated in many cases.
A personal representative is appointed by a probate court judge to manage the administration of an estate when someone dies with or without a will and has not transferred all their property into a living trust. If the decedent had a last will and testament in which they named the person they wanted to serve as personal representative, the probate court judge will most likely honor his wishes and appoint this individual. The personal representative of an "intestate" estate, one without a valid will, is commonly called the estate's "administrator."