Probate is the court-directed process of distributing a person’s assets and possessions after death. The probate court governs the distribution of your estate according to the instructions of your will.
Each state has laws of “intestate succession” which provide for the transfer of property to relatives if a person dies without a will. The law determines who will receive your property and how much each person will receive.
The court will not take into account what you may have wanted. If you have no relatives, then your property may go to the government. If you did not express your wishes in a will, the Court does not know what you want, and therefore must follow the mandates of the law in distributing your property. Your friends, favorite charities and some of your family members who otherwise might have been remembered with a bequest (gift) in your will, may have no standing with regard to the intestate succession laws, and may therefore receive nothing when you die.
Obviously, a major reason to create a will is that all your property will be distributed as you wish, rather than according to the laws of your state. Creating a will is your opportunity to make your intentions clear and to keep important decisions in your hands. Every adult who has property, whether it’s a sentimental piece of jewelry, a home, or artwork, should make out a will.
You may make changes to your will by either making a new will or making a Codicil to your existing will.