Taking the time to create a last Will and testament is a very simple step you can take to ensure your wishes are followed and your family is adequately cared for should the worst happen. Unfortunately, most people are not very familiar with the laws surrounding Wills, or some of the uncommon language encountered in the Will making process. Here is a brief list of some of the words you may come across while making your Will.
Probate. The word “probate” refers to the state laws and procedures that apply when a person dies. Specifically, probate is the legal process that some of your property must go through before new owners can take possession. Probate courts are those courts that only deal with probate matters, such as determining whether a Will is valid or who has the rights to inherit when someone dies without a Will.
Executor. After you die, someone will have to notify the probate court about your death and become responsible for managing your property until a court makes a decision about who should be the new owner. This person is called an executor. You usually name your choice of executor in your will, though a court can also appoint one if you don’t leave a Will. Executors are sometimes known as personal representatives or estate administrators.
Non-probate property. While probate laws determine what happens to some of your property, other property you leave behind does not have to go in front of a probate court before a new owner takes possession. For example, if you have a bank account with your spouse and each of you is a co-owner, your spouse can take possession of the money in the account immediately after you die. Because this property is not subject to probate court rules, it is called non-probate property or non-probate assets.
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