If a person dies with a Last Will and Testament ("testate"), the probate court determines if the Will is valid, hears any objections to the Will, orders that creditors be paid and supervises the process to assure that property remaining is distributed in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Will.
If a person dies without a Last Will and Testament ("intestate"), the probate court appoints a person to receive all claims against the estate, pay creditors and then distribute all remaining property in accordance with the laws of the state.
The major difference between dying testate and dying intestate is that an intestate estate is distributed to beneficiaries in accordance with a plan established by state law, and a testate estate is distributed in accordance with the instructions provided by the decedent in his or her Will.
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