Find a lawyer to help you answer your legal questions.

  • My Legal Briefcase

    Living Will, Probate Will, Non-Probate Will: What do all these terms mean?
    Posted: 2012-07-23 05:00:57

    There is a lot of terminology (especially, legal) involved in writing a Will. It is not enough that writing a Will requires a lot of thought and time; the cumbersome language and the words that often appear in Wills do not make the job any easier.

    That is one of the reasons why lawyers are often needed to draft them.

    To help you to sort out the basic details about Wills and understand them better, here is a list of commonly used terms. If you draft a Will with your lawyer, you will be in a better position to understand what your lawyer is talking about:

    • Living Will: People normally have the right to decide how they want to be treated if they fall ill. However, if the ability to make decisions is no longer there, someone else has to make them. That is what the Living Will is for. It says how a person wants to be treated and what decisions can be made in event he or she cannot do it because of an illness.

    • Executor: This is the person whom the person writing the Will assigns the responsibility to execute the Will and carry out its instructions.

    • Probate: If a person passes away, how do his/her assets get distributed? They are done so by a process that is referred to as probate. This formal process is often started by making an application to the probate court. Either a relative or an Executor will make this application. Then the court looks at the Will, the heirs and the assets and decides how to proceed.

    • Non-Probate: It is the opposite of probate property. While some property can pass on to beneficiaries through the probate process, there is property that will not. For example, there might be property that is jointly owned. In such case, the property will pass on to the second owner. Or in the case of a life insurance policy, there is often a predetermined beneficiary.

    • Intestate: Intestate refers to the situation where a person passes away but does not leave any Will behind. In such cases, there are formal statutory rules that govern how property will pass to the net of kin.

    • Testator: If a person left a Will after passing away, that person is called a Testator.

    These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the legal jargon of Wills. But at least they are a good start for you to become familiar with how Wills are drafted and what they mean in law.

    Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal advice.