When writing a will and estate plan, there are many legal terms you need to know throughout the process. My clients routinely ask about these terms and the difference between them. Two common words that can mean drastically different things for your estate are “testate” and “intestate.” Understanding these terms will help you foresee the probate process.
Explaining the terms
“Testate” means that a valid will exists for an estate at the time of a person’s death. Conversely, “intestate” means that a person died without a will.
You might hear it used in the context like “John Doe died intestate.”
What it means to your family
As you can see, the difference in the words is small, but it can make a big difference for your estate and your loved ones after you die. When considering your wishes, it is important to take the right steps to ensure your wishes are met and your loved ones understand how to carry them out when you are no longer able.
Dying intestate (without a will) can have significant consequences for your loved ones and your estate. Without a will, your estate is divided according to state law, which may not align with your personal wishes. It can also create further stress and uncertainty in an already difficult time for your family.
The benefits of writing a will
Writing a will can require a tough, but necessary, conversation with your spouse, children and extended family members. Often, people fail to write a will because of fear or misconceptions about the process, but with more information, you can make the choice that is right for your family by writing specific arrangements that meet your needs.
Writing a will offers significant flexibility over your estate including:
- Tax planning to ensure your loved ones get the most out of your estate
- Charity designations to make a mark beyond your family
- Prevention of further legal challenges to your estate
Understanding the benefits of a will and estate plan comes with comprehending the terms used in reference to them; and, with greater knowledge comes better insight on how the probate process can often make a clearer future for your family.