Lesson 1: What Is a Will?
Let’s begin the first lesson with a discussion of some of the terminology. A will (sometimes called a testament) is a legal document in which a person specifies the disposition of their property after death. The person making the will is called the testator or, if the person is female, the testatrix. In modern times, testator has become the more universal term, but you will encounter testatrix in older documents.
At the time the testator dies, they are referred to as the decedent or the deceased. The process of proving a will’s authenticity or validity is called probate, taken from the Latin words probatim or probare, which mean “to examine”. The entirety of the physical possessions of the decedent is called the estate and can consist of real estate, money, physical possessions, and other items of value. The legal body responsible for reviewing and examining materials related to the handling of an estate is the probate court. The person approved or appointed by the court to oversee or administer the affairs of the estate during the probate process is known as the executor or, in cases where a woman is appointed, the executrix. The term administrator is also used. Persons or institutions named to inherit are commonly referred to as heirs.
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