It's important to become familiar with the terms used in the probate process to stay engaged and active in your responsibility:
Only Husband, or Wife, Named on Deed: Deeds titled with only the husband, or with only the Wwife, and one survives the other not on title - probate is usually required. There are also major implications with the title of real estate if this occurs (spousal elections).
Tenants in Common: This occurs where there is not a husband and wife scenario (with exceptions), but more of a boyfriend/girlfriend, brother/sister, family members, business partners on the deed. This type of deed contains no special language for automatic title transfers. Thus, if A, B, C and D are titled on the deed, with no special language, and D dies, in order to sell/convey/transfer, a probate will be required for D.
Tenancy's by the Entirety: In the event both husband and wife are alive, and the deed is titled in this manner, if husband dies, title to the real estate transfers over to the wife with the recording of a death certificate for husband. Therefore, no probate is needed. Wife can now sell/convey/transfer.
Joint Tenants with the Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS): A JTWROS Deed has language akin to "survival of the fittest." Whoever is the last to live gets title to the real estate and avoids probate along the way until their own demise.
Life Estate Deed/Lady Bird Deed: These types of deeds have special language. Upon death, the Life Tenant title passes to remainderman, also known as the beneficiaries on the deed. No probate is required.
Trusts: When one person (trustee) holds property at another person's (settlor's) request for the benefit of someone else (the beneficiary.) Property titled in a Trust (Land Trust, Irrevocable Trust), usually avoids probate. (Trust Administration issues may exist).
Administrator: A person or institution appointed by a court to act on behalf of the deceased person in connection with the administration of a decedent's estate.
Beneficiary: A person who inherits when there is a Will (e.g., beneficiary of a life insurance policy, beneficiary of a trust, or beneficiary under a Will.)
Custodian of the Will: The person who has the Will when the person who wrote the Will dies.
Decedent (or deceased): The person who died.
Decedent's estate: All the property (real or personal) that a person owned at the time of death.
Conservator: The individual or corporation who legally has charge of the care and management of the person, property, or both of an adult who is unable to provide for his own personal needs or who is substantially unable to manage his financial affairs. Limited conservatorships may be established for developmentally disabled adults.
Executor: A person named in the Will and appointed by the Court to carry out the dead person's wishes.
Fiduciary: A person charged with a high degree of care who acts on behalf of another. Executors and trustees are fiduciaries.
Guardian: The individual or corporation who legally has charge of the care and management of the person, property, or both, of a child during his minority.
Heir: A person who inherits when there is no Will.
Inheritance Taxes: The taxes imposed, according to the relationship to the decedent, on the person who receives the property.
Intestate: When someone dies without leaving a Will.
Intestate Succession: The order of who inherits the property when someone dies without a Will.
Legatess, or Devisees: People who are named in a Will.
Life Estate: An interest in property, the term of which is measured by the life of its owner.
Personal Property: Things like cash, stocks, jewelry, clothing, furniture, or cars.
Personal Representative (or Administrator or Executor): The person responsible for overseeing the distribution of the estate.
Probate: The process of deciding where, how, and to whome to distribute the decedent's property.
Real Property: Building and land.
Testate: When someone dies leaving a Will.