You may hear the word probate and associate it with a will but know nothing else about it. Probate is a legal process whereby a will goes through the court to ensure things happen, as you stated.
If your estate qualifies for probate, your family may have to wait before inheriting. Learn more about this legal process and how you may want to consider it when planning your estate.
The person you chose as your administrator or executor files the will with the local probate court. The administrator provides the judge with the details of your estate and financial situation. Once probate starts, creditors that show proof of debt may put a claim on your estate. The administrator pays valid debts first.
Notifications go out
When probate opens, the administrator notifies the people you mention in your will. However, other people may file claims with the court asking for a share of your estate. These are people omitted from your will who challenge its validity. The court hears any argument it deems relevant and then decides if these claimants may inherit.
The final people who receive money and property from the estate are those you name. Personal property such as heirlooms go to those as you expressed. Once the estate has a zero balance, the administrator files a document to close it, ending probate.
The purpose of probate is to make sure people follow your wishes after your death. Since the process may take time, you may want to consider other ways to leave money and property to heirs, such as trust accounts and insurance policies.