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Probate is the legal process that occurs after someone dies. During probate, it must be proven in court that the person’s Will is valid, their property must be inventoried and appraised, taxes and debts must be paid (as well as the lawyers and court fees), and then the remaining property is distributed among the heirs and beneficiaries. Probate becomes a matter of public record at the time of the individual’s death.
A trust conveys money and/or property to the recipients of the decedent's choice after his or her death, usually free of court supervision. Trusts bypass probate, since technically assets you put in a trust are owned by the trustee, not you, so on your death the trustee can transfer your property and assets directly to your beneficiaries. At upper asset levels, a living trust is designed to reduce the federal estate taxes of the decedent's estate.