The first step in the probate process is initiating the case with the local court. You must file a petition in which you state that the decedent passed away and there was or was not a will. The next step is to ask the court to name a personal representative to handle the affairs of the estate. All of this requires a death certificate, paying a filing fee, and gathering information regarding the heirs of the estate.
The Court Hearing
To decide whether or not to grant your request, the judge will read over your petition and supporting papers and hold a hearing. Notice must be sent to all interested parties, including creditors. The hearing is essentially an opportunity for people to formally object to the appointment of the proposed representative. This is largely a formality, and many probate lawyers do not have their clients attend.
Once the court has appointed someone as a representative, it will issue Letters that give that person the authority to act on behalf of the estate. He or she will be able to sell assets, pay debts and will be in charge of distributing any leftover money to the heirs if allowed. However, a representative must provide the court with a detailed accounting of all work to ensure there has not been any abuse.