WHAT IS A WILL?
A will allows you to distribute your property to named individuals or specific entities. A will also allows you to (1) designate a guardian for your minor child or children and (2) name an executor for your estate. However, a will does not provide for the distribution of nonprobate assets (e.g., certain joint property, life insurance, retirement plans and employee death benefits), which, under California state law or by contract, will pass to someone else on death.
WHAT IS A LIVING TRUST?
A living trust (also commonly known as a “revocable trust”) holds title to assets which have been transferred to the trust. It allows you to distribute your property in whatever manner you desire upon death without going through the probate process. A living trust also allows you to (1) manage your property during your life and (2) name a trustee to manage your property in the event you should become incapacitated.
WHAT IS A PROBATE?
Probate is the court supervised process for (1) determining the validity of your will, (2) gathering your assets, (3) paying your debts, taxes, and the expenses of will administration, and (4) transferring property at death according to the terms of your will. If you do not have a will, the courts will distribute the remaining assets according to California state law.