A person who is either the executor of the will or the administrator of an intestate estate is required to post a bond. The amount of the bond is usually set by statute, and is usually based on the value of the personal property of the deceased. The bond is required to ensure that the heirs are protected from misappropriation of estate funds, etc. In any court actions that required the court to decide matters such as the sale of land, personal property, etc. the executor and/or administrator files documents with the court requesting the action and the heirs are listed and the case is always listed as the executor/administrator vs the names of the heirs. If there are minor children the court may appoint a guardian for each minor child to ensure that the interest of the minor children are protected.
A woman in some states was entitled to dower rights in her husband's estate. In states that had dower rights for women, required a wife to waive her dower rights when her husband sold land. There is usually a statement attached to the bottom of the deed stating that the wife waiver her dower right to the property.
Laws regarding a wife's right to her husband's estate vary from state to state. It is not uncommon to see that a wife is entitled to only an equal share along with her children. For example, if there are 10 children and the mother, then there are 11 heirs and the estate will be divided 11 ways. This is still the law today in many states for women whose's husband's die without a will.
Also, in many states prior to the Civil War, if a woman was married an inherited part of the estate of her parents, her portion of the estate went to her husband and not to her. When my 4th great grandfather died, there was a married daughter whose husband had left her and the administrator of her father's estate would not pay her the portion of her father's estate as her husband was the one entitled to the money. She died 10 years after her father, never having received the money from her father's estate, and her grown children sued the administrator of their grandfather's estate so they could receive the money. There are numerous books on the women's rights and the law, and they make for interesting reading.