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Ancestors expert Leslie Smith Collier explains the second class of probate records.
When a person who has left a will dies, a probate county carries out the will's instructions. In some cases, this occurs
even if a person dies intestate, or without a will. The
judge makes the final decision regarding how the estate is to be distributed, taking into account the validity of the will and
the legal demands of creditors.
There are a variety of documents that can be found in a probate packet, including:letters of administration grant authority to the administrator to settle the estate
probate petitions request a final settlement of the estate and often include a list of heirs and their addresses
inventories provide a list and appraisal of all property of the deceased
accounts of transactions pertaining to the estate include payments to funeral homes, of debts, and other day-to-day life details
settlement papers give a final accounting of the division of all the property of the deceased, often with an acknowledgment from the inheritors
Taken as a whole, these documents provide a rich resource of genealogical and even personal information about an
ancestor which can often lead a researcher to still other resources, such as land records. To gain even more insight,
consider obtaining copies of the probates of neighbors and relatives living at the time so you can compare and draw
conclusions about the financial and economic standing of your ancestor.