How does probate work when there is no will?

Probate is the judicial process whereby a will is “proved” in a court of law and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased, or whereby the estate is settled according to the laws of intestacy in the state of residence [or real property] of the deceased at time of death in the absence of a legal will.

While not all assets may go through probate, those assets that do go through probate are distributed in accordance with the wishes set forth in the will signed by the deceased. If he or she had no will, the assets will pass to the deceased person’s relatives in accordance with the laws in which the will is probated or in some more complicated cases, the distribution might be dependent on where the property is located.