Probate is the process of proving and registering in the Supreme Court the last Will of a deceased person. When a person dies, somebody has to deal with their estate.
It is usually the executor of their Will who administers the estate and handles the disposal of their assets and debts. In order to get authority to do this, they usually need to obtain a legal document called a 'Grant of Probate'.
To protect the interests of those who hold the deceased's assets (for example banks) the executor may be asked to prove they are authorised to administer the Will before the assets can be released. The Grant of Probate is the proof required.
To obtain a Grant of Probate, the executor named in the Will must apply to the Probate Office of the Supreme Court. If their application is approved, the executor is given a Grant of Probate to confirm the author of the Will has died, the Will is authentic and the executor is who they say they are.
An executor can be an individual or a trustee company like the Public Trustee. Once a Grant of Probate has been given, management of the deceased's assets can safely be transferred to the executor.
All Grants of Probate are stored, along with the corresponding Will, at the Supreme Court. These are public documents. If a deceased person does not have a Will, validation of their estate and benefactors is not done with a Grant of Probate, but with a similar document known as 'letters of administration'.