When a person who has a will dies, the will must be validated so that assets can be transferred to beneficiaries named in the will. A probate hearing is one of the beginning steps of that process. Which parties are required to appear at any particular probate hearing varies according to the subject of the hearing and the judge's preferences. Beneficiaries rarely must appear in uncontested probate matters.
The Probate Process
When a person dies, her estate assets are transferred to the beneficiaries named in the will. However, this does not happen automatically. Often, a court-supervised process termed probate is required. During probate, the will is proved valid, estate assets are gathered, debts are paid and beneficiaries are identified. The person appointed to steer the estate through probate is called the executor.
Initial Probate Hearing
Probate often commences when the executor files a petition to probate the will. He must serve notice of the hearing on all interested parties including all named beneficiaries and surviving family members. Although any party may show up, only the executor and occasionally the will witnesses are obliged to appear. If the judge is satisfied that the will was executed properly, he admits the will to probate.
Subsequent probate hearings can involve any aspect of estate management, from verifying estate debts to will contests. Like any other court, the probate judge can order persons to appear and testify on contested issues. Those required to appear are served written notice.