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Who Is Involved in the Probate Process?

The probate process involves different parties throughout its stages. Terms such as executor, testator, decedent, personal representative, and beneficiary are used in the probate process. It is easy to become confused as to the roles, functions, and responsibilities of these parties within the probate process. Let's establish the basics of who is involved in the probate process.


Wills tend to give executors named within them fairly wide latitude in handling the estate's property and affairs. The testator, or decedent who died with a will, has a right to have her intentions considered, as those intentions are set forth in the will's provisions. The estate's beneficiaries and their wishes must also be taken into account whenever possible. It is prudent for a testator to select an executor who will be fair and respected by all parties. It is also possible to have an institutional executor appointed, such as a bank.

The executor of an estate should not take action until the governing will has been probated. The reason for waiting is to ensure that the executor has been officially granted authority under the will. While, it may be necessary for an executor to wait for the official grant of authority under a will, it is not necessary to wait to pay funeral costs for the decedent or to take care of and safeguard any property of the estate. An executor need not delay actions to maintain real estate or to continue to operate the decedent's business. An executor acts fully within his or her rights, responsibilities, and duties in hiring parties such as laborers, lawyers, accountants, or other professionals using estate funds in order to obtain assistance with the administration of an estate.

Personal Representative

A personal representative can take the form of an executor or administrator. Personal representatives should adopt the prudent practice of providing notice to all heirs and beneficiaries of what is going on with the administration of the estate. It is a wise idea for that updating process to be done in writing by the personal representative early and often. In some states, the process of providing written notices is required.


Heirs are the decedent's family members and relatives who would receive part of the decedent's estate property pursuant to the succession guidelines provided by state law if a decedent has no will. Heirs include parties such as children. A beneficiary is a person who may or may not be related to a decedent. A beneficiary is a party whom the decedent has named in the will specifically to receive a certain gift of estate property. It is a common occurrence for a decedent's heirs to be named under the will as beneficiaries.


An estate also has creditors. The probate process provides a finite timetable and process for the submission of creditor claims against the estate.