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Estates, Wills and Trusts

An estate is the total property, real and personal, owned by an individual before distribution through a trust or will. Wills and trusts allow individuals to designate the specific beneficiaries of their estate and the way their property is managed and distributed either at death or during their lifetime (as with certain types of trusts).

GetLegal’s Estates, Wills and Trusts Law Center has general information on wills, trusts, estate planning, probate and living wills. Legal tips and videos from practicing estate attorneys provide further assistance in this area.


A will is a legal document that distributes a person’s real and personal property at the time of their death. The property of someone who dies without a valid will is distributed according to state law.


A trust is an arrangement in which one person or organization manages property for the benefit of another. Many trusts are created in conjunction with a will and other elements of estate planning.

Estate Planning

Estate planning involves setting up mechanisms such as wills and trusts that provide specific instructions for the distribution and management of property passing to a person’s designated beneficiaries.


Probate is the process by which a court determines the validity of a will and supervises the execution of its provisions and distribution of the decedent’s property. Probate also generally provides a process for payment or discharge of the decedent’s debts.

Living Wills

Living wills are legal documents that allow people to set forth instructions about the treatment and care they wish to receive in the event of incapacity, including whether they wish to receive life-supporting treatment.

Elder Law

Elder law covers issues encountered by the elderly, including long-term care, government benefits and end-of-life decisions.

Last updated: Oct. 1, 2008

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