What is a will? A will directs the distribution of property after death, and articulates other decisions. It also indicates to the court how the person making the will wants his estate handled. A will can be revoked or changed by the person making it so long as he is of sound mind.
The provisions of a will do not come into play until the death of the testator – the person making the will. At that time, a will may provide for the appointment of a guardian for minors or disabled persons, may direct how taxes and expenses are paid, may give rise to a testamentary trust to administer certain funds, and may empower the executor to take certain actions to preserve or liquidate the estate. The latter can enable the executor to deal with holdings such as with real estate, small business interests, stocks, bonds, commodities, and the like.
Generally, on death, the will is filed with the probate court, which oversees any expenses and the distribution of property held by the deceased. One alternative to a will is a trust, which would not go through probate.