probate (prōˈbāt) [key], in law, the certification by a court that a will is valid. Probate, which is governed by various statutes in the several states of the United States, is required before the will can take effect. The procedure requires that notification of a hearing be given to all persons who may possibly inherit the deceased's property. Lost wills and oral wills may also be probated in some states if proof of due execution is furnished. If the will is certified, the court will issue letters testamentary authorizing the executors to carry out the will's provisions. The judge sitting on a probate court is ordinarily called a surrogate.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.