The Strange Language of Wills – A Quick Guide
Most people don't spend their daily lives dealing with the language of the law. Because of this, it's
important for anyone creating a Will to take a few moments and learn about some of the common
legal terms involved. Here's a brief list of some of the more commonly found words with which you
may not be familiar.
Intestacy. A person who dies without leaving behind a valid Will is said to have died intestate.
If you create a Will you are said to have died testate.
Valid Will. Anyone can create a document and call it a Will. However, that doesn't mean a
court will approve it as a legally acceptable document. In order for a will to be legal, it must
meet specific state requirements. If any of these requirements are not met, the will is
considered invalid and a court will not abide by its terms. In this situation, a person who
created an invalid Will dies intestate.
Probate. In order to determine if Wills are valid, all states have probate laws. Probate laws
establish rules and procedures that apply after a person has died and the person's property
must be redistributed. While many probate laws apply to wills, probate can also cover areas
such as guardianships or even adoption. States also have specific courts that only hear probate
Testator. A person who makes a Will is called a testator. The word testatrix may also be used if
the person is female, though testator is often used regardless of person's sex.
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