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Legal GlossaryLegal Glossary

Estate Planning and Probate Legal Glossary

A

AB Trust: A trust designed to assure that the personal estate tax exemption of each spouse is used correctly. The surviving spouse should have access to the assets of the deceased spouse during the remainder of the surviving spouse’s lifetime.Administrator: A person appointed to handle the affairs of the deceased.

Annual exclusion: An exclusion allowing a person to give away a certain amount each year as a “gift” without paying gift taxes.Legal Glossary

Assets: Items of value.

Attorney-in-Fact: An individual designated in a power of attorney document, to act as the agent of the person who has executed the document.

B

Basic Will: A basic will distribute everything to your spouse (if living) or to your children if 18 years or older.

Beneficiary: A person named to receive income or assets from a trust; someone who benefits from a will.

C

Codicil: A document which serves to modify the original provisions of a prior will.

D

Deceased / Decedent: A person who has died.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: A written document in which a person names an individual to make health care related decisions for them in the event that they are no longer able to do so for themselves.

Durable Power of Attorney for Property: Same as above, except the decisions being made are property related

E

Escheat: An assignment of property to the state because there is no verifiable legal owner.

Estate: Everything of value that a person owned prior to the time of death.

Estate tax: A tax placed on the net value of a decedent’s estate at the time of death.

Executor or Executrix: A person named in the decedent’s will to serve as personal representative in probating the decedent’s estate.

F

Fair market value: The market price for an asset as would be agreed to by a willing buyer and a willing seller.

Fee simple ownership: Property ownership where one person or entity holds the entire ownership interest.

Fiduciary: A person or institution that is legally responsible for the management, investment, and distribution of funds (i.e. the trustee identified in a trust).

G

Gift: A voluntary transfer of property for which nothing of value is received in return.

Gifting: An estate planning tool used to implement an estate plan by making gifts to intended successors of assets owned by the person making the gifts.

Grantor: The person placing property in a trust.

H

The Heir: A person entitled by law to inherit part or all of the estate of an ancestor even if a valid will was not left.

Holographic will: A will entirely handwritten by the testator. The date and all words in the will including the signature must be handwritten by the testator. The signature of the testator may or may not be witnessed.

I

Irrevocable Trust: A trust that is not amendable or revocable by the grantor. Normally created during a grantor’s lifetime.

Inheritance tax: A tax levied by the county of residence of a person who inherits something from a will. The rate of taxation applied will vary on the size of the inheritance and the relationship between the person who inherits and the deceased.

Intangible property: Property that represents only real value (i.e. bank accounts or promissory notes).

Irrevocable trust: A trust that cannot be changed after it has been established.

J

Joint tenancy: A form of joint ownership by two or more persons in which each person has an equal undivided ownership interest that passes directly to the surviving joint tenant(s) upon the death of any joint tenant.

K

There are currently no legal terms beginning with ‘K’ in our online dictionary of common legal terms.

L

Lateral succession: Succession of property ownership in which the property is transferred between members of the same generation.

Letters of Administration: Document issued by the probate court giving the administrator authority to administer the estate.

Letters Testamentary: Document issued by the probate court giving the executor authority to administer the estate.

Liabilities: The amounts owed to another by any person, family, or business (i.e. a mortgage).

Living trust: A trust established during the lifetime of the grantor.

M

Marital deduction: An unlimited deduction against the estate and gift tax for transfers made outright or in qualifying trusts to the spouse of the transferor.

N

There are currently no legal terms beginning with ‘N’ in our online dictionary of common legal terms.

O

There are currently no legal terms beginning with ‘O’ in our online dictionary of common legal terms.

P

Personal representative: An executor, administrator, or anyone else who is in charge of a decedent’s property.

Probate: A court procedure used for settling the personal and business affairs of a decedent. The procedure includes proving the validity of a will, transferring property to beneficiaries, and appointing an administrator if there is no valid will.

Q

There are currently no legal terms beginning with ‘Q’ in our online dictionary of common legal terms.

R

Revocable trust: A trust that can be changed after it has been established. A revocable trust becomes irrevocable upon the death of the grantor.

S

Sound mind: To be of sound mind means:

1. That the testator understands the act of making a will; and

2. That the testator understands what property is being included in the will; and

3. That the testator understands the proposed disposition of that property; and

4. That the testator knows and recognizes his or her heirs.

T

Tangible property: Property that is capable of being touched (i.e. land).

Testator: One who writes and signs a will.

Trustee: A person named to manage property for the benefit of the beneficiary.

U

Undivided interest: The interest in property owned by each joint tenants. Each tenant is entitled to an income share proportional to his ownership interest. If the property is sold, the proceeds are shared based on the ownership shares held by each tenant.

V

There are currently no legal terms beginning with ‘V’ in our online dictionary of common legal terms.

W

Will: A declaration made by a person, prior to death, that states how that person wants their estate to be divided.

X

There are currently no legal terms beginning with ‘X’ in our online dictionary of common legal terms.

Y

There are currently no legal terms beginning with ‘Y’ in our online dictionary of common legal terms.

Z

There are currently no legal terms beginning with ‘z’ in our online dictionary of common legal terms.

David M. Grant