1. Wills/Trusts/Probate

Wills/Trusts/ProbateA will is a written document which leaves the estate, or sum total of posessions of a deceased person, to named persons or entities (beneficiaries, legatees, divisees). This estate can be given as a whole or in percentages to whomever has a legal right to receive such porperty. Gifts may also be “bequeathed”, such as a particular piece of furniture, or a specific sum of money going to a certain person. A will usually names an executor to be in charge of handling all of the paperwork and distribution of the property of the estate, following the wishes stated in the will. In addition to distribution of the estate, they may also manage the funeral and/or burial instructions and see to nominating guardians of minor children. A trust is an entity created to hold assets, much like a person would, for the benefit of named persons or entities, with a trustee managing the trust (and often holding title on behalf of the trust). Most trusts are founded by the persons (called trustors, settlors and/or donors) who execute a written Declaration of Trust which establishes the trust and spells out the terms and conditions upon which it will be conducted. A trust may take the place of a will and avoid probate (management of an estate with court supervision) by providing for distribution of all assets originally owned by the trustors or settlors, upon their death. Probate is the process of proving a will is valid and thereafter administering the estate of a dead person according to the terms of the will. Even if there is a will, probate may not be necessary if the estate is small with no real estate title to be transferred, or all of the estate is either jointly owned or community property.