A Will is a legal document that specifies how assets, debts and taxes are to be handled at death. Using a Will, an individual can name a Personal Representative to handle his or her affairs, and a Guardian for any minor children.
Any assets that pass through a Will are subject to the probate process. If assets are owned by a person that dies without a Will (intestate), those assets will also pass through the Probate process. It is important to have a Will to specify how your property is to be distributed and who should handle your affairs. Otherwise, a court will make these decisions for you.
It is important to note that the Probate process has many significant disadvantages that can be mitigated by a variety of methods. Probate is time consuming, costly, and it is public record in most states.