"Wills" and "probate" are related concepts in the realm of estate planning and administration, but they refer to different aspects of the process. Let's explore the differences between the two:
A will, also known as a last will and testament, is a legal document that outlines a person's wishes for the distribution of their assets (property, belongings, money) after their death. It allows the individual, known as the testator or testatrix, to specify how their estate should be divided among beneficiaries. A will can also name an executor, the person responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will. Wills can address various matters, such as naming guardians for minor children, making specific bequests (gifts), and setting up trusts.
Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person's will is authenticated by a court and the instructions in the will are carried out. It involves several steps, including:
- **Filing the Will:** The will is submitted to the appropriate court, along with other required documents and information.
- **Validating the Will:** The court verifies the authenticity of the will and ensures that it meets legal requirements. This is especially important to prevent fraud or coercion.
- **Appointing an Executor:** If an executor is named in the will, the court will officially appoint them to oversee the administration of the estate. If there is no named executor or the named executor cannot fulfill their role, the court will appoint an administrator.
- **Asset Inventory:** The executor creates an inventory of the deceased's assets and liabilities. This can include property, bank accounts, investments, debts, etc.
- **Notifying Creditors and Beneficiaries:** The executor notifies creditors of the death and settles any outstanding debts. They also notify beneficiaries about their entitlements.
- **Distributing the Estate:** Once debts are settled and administrative tasks are completed, the executor distributes the remaining assets to beneficiaries according to the instructions in the will.
- **Final Accounting:** The executor provides a final accounting of the estate's transactions to the court.
- A will is a legal document that outlines a person's wishes for the distribution of their assets after death.
- Probate is the legal process through which a will is validated by a court and the instructions in the will are carried out.
- Wills are created by the testator or testatrix and can cover various aspects of estate distribution and other matters.
- Probate involves court supervision to ensure the proper administration of the deceased person's estate, payment of debts, and distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
- Not all assets go through probate; some assets may pass directly to beneficiaries through mechanisms like joint ownership or beneficiary designations.
In summary, a will is the document that expresses a person's wishes for their estate, while probate is the legal process that follows the death of the testator to validate the will and ensure its proper execution.