Probate simply means to prove your will and settle your probate estate in a court of law.  Your probate estate includes assets that are in your name alone. Assets outside of a probate estate include, but are not limited to assets in a living trust, assets that pass to named beneficiaries by reason of law or contract, such as life insurance, joint property, pension plans, etc. A judge makes sure that your heirs are notified, your debts and taxes are paid, and your estate is distributed according to your will, if you have one (a testate estate), or if you die without a will (an intestate estate) according to state law. The probate options available to settle your probate estate are determined by: the value of your probate estate; real estate in the estate; claims against the estate; estate contests; fighting among heirs; and satisfaction among your heirs during the administration process. The costs involved depend on how much time and effort is spent on settling your probate estate. If your affairs are in order less time is needed to settle your probate estate. To reduce probate costs, keep accurate and up to date records of creditors, heirs, receivables and the locations of all assets in your estate.