When a person dies, his or her property can be distributed in one of three ways: by a valid will, by a signed living trust, or by the laws governing the distribution of a decedent's property if he or she has not left a valid will. If a person dies without a living trust, typically the property will be administered by the probate court. This means that a judge will review the deceased's will in order to determine if it is valid. The judge will then appoint an executor or administrator to manage the estate for a period of time, and to send notices to all potential creditors informing them that they have four months to make their claims or risk losing them. When the claim period has ended, the executor or administrator can then ask the court for permission to distribute the estate to the deceased's heirs. Probate judges make sure that the assets are divided and distributed equally according to the decedent's will or the laws of the state. In most cases, probate issues are settled within one year. Probate is a complex issue, so for more information please consult an attorney in your area.