2. Legal process
by which the assets of a deceased are properly distributed (if he or she made a will) to the beneficiaries or heirs through an executor
named in the will, or (if he or she died without a will) according to the local law by a court
. The court's objective
is to ensure that the deceased's debts, taxes, and other valid-claims are paid out of his or her estate
(probate assets) before any distribution
is made to the estate's beneficiaries, in accordance with the will (if it exists) or on the orders of the court (if it doesn't).
of this public process may take years if disputes about claims