Probate is a court supervised procedure for the orderly transfer of property after a person's death. In the United States, the term "probate" has a decidedly negative connotation. This has occurred primarily from two factors; the fact that some attorneys have charged a fixed percentage of an estate's value for shepherding a probate case through court and the promotional efforts of those individuals who purport to provide "estate planning."
The actual need for and the complexity of a probate action is determined entirely by the size and value of an estate and the ability of the heirs to agree among themselves. The need for a way to transfer property upon the death of the owner has existed since property ownership existed. The current procedures in the United States go back to English Common Law and the Court system that developed starting in the Middle Ages in England and other countries. The driving force for creating probate procedures is the existence of "titled property," that is property ownership that is evidenced by some kind of government issued title document created at the time the property is acquired. In our modern age, real estate and automobiles are the most common types of titled property. A more in-depth study will be had in the classroom.