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Defining Terms used in Probate and Wills


A will is a document that directs the distribution of a person’s property after he or she dies. It is “admitted to probate” after death in order for the probate court to oversee the distribution in an orderly fashion that can be relied upon by others to establish property rights.

A person who dies with a valid written will (and not having revoked it) is said to have died “testate.” A person who dies without leaving behind a validly executed will is said to have died “intestate,” in which case statutory law will determine the distribution of the deceased’s property among the heirs or next of kin.

The will may be carried out by an executor, who is a person appointed in the will document to make sure the wishes or directions set forth in the will are carried out. An executor (or executrix) is a personal representative named in a will. The executor is the person chosen by the deceased to assure his or her property is distributed according to the will. An administrator (or administratrix) is a personal representative appointed by the court for a decedent who dies without a will, who fails to name an executor, who names someone who is without capacity to serve, or who writes a will that the court refuses to admit to probate.

It is not always necessary to probate a will if there is little property, all beneficiaries are known (and in agreement) and there is no real estate owned by the decedent.

This is best determined in consultation with an attorney. For more information about probate and wills call Dobbins and Venick Law Firm.