The probate process is complex, but easier to understand with some background knowledge.  To that end, let’s start with some definitions you’ll need to know: (Source: VCCA Probate and Estate Administration Manual)

Executor: The person named in the decedent’s Will to administer the estate who accepts appointment by qualifying before the Clerk.

Administrator: The person appointed by and qualified before the Clerk to administer the [intestate] decedent’s estate.

Trustee: Person holding property in trust. One in whom an estate, interest or power is vested.

Decedent: The deceased person.

Heirs: Persons who would inherit the decedent’s estate if the decedent died without a Will.

Beneficiary: The person or organization entitled to receive a portion of the estate.

Fiduciary: A person in a position of trust with respect to another’s property; a general term used to refer to an executor, administrator or trustee.

Self-Proving: Acknowledgement of the testator and the affidavits of attesting witnesses, made before an officer authorized to administer oaths.

Qualification: Procedure whereby a person is appointed by the Clerk to serve as executor or administrator of a decedent’s estate.

Testate: Deceased with a Will. 

Intestate: Deceased without a Will.

Certificate of Qualification: (Also called Letters of Testamentary) Formal instrument of authority and appointment given to a fiduciary by the proper court, empowering him or her to act in the capacity of a fiduciary.