Glossary Of Common Probate Terms

The intent of this glossary is to provide individuals going through probate with a general understanding of terms commonly used in Probate Law and their application. The definitions within this document are not comprehensive and are not intended to serve as a substitute for independent research of the law or for a probate attorney. We have however, reviewed the terms and we have worked with members of the law to check and review our content to provide you with the best and most up to date information. We believe that probate can be confusing and understanding the different terms is very important to navigate the process.

If you have any questions or would like to contribute to our glossary, please feel free to visit our contact page.

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  • a
    The term abate referrs to ending or cancelling out. This term is a doctrine that can be used in probate proceedings. The defenition of abate "To end; cancel out" means that the estate has assets that are not equal to the amount of debts in the(...) Read More
    Cutting back certain gifts under a will when necessary to create enough money for taxes, debts and other bequests that are given priority. Read More
    An abstract of judgment is an official document filed with the county recorder's office to claim any real estate that may be owned by you as a result. The purpose behind it, is so they can create some kind-of lien against said property if(...) Read More
  • Estate Accounting
    An act or system of settling accounts; it's a statement that summarizes an entire estate looking at credits, debits, and liabilities from real estate to investment accounts. An inventory of assets is different from an estate accounting which(...) Read More
    For the suit; for purposes of pending litigation. Read More
    The failure of a specific bequest of property because the person who owned it at their death no longer has any control over its use. Read More
  • Administrator
    A probate administrator is not to be confused with a regular administrator like that of a hospital or a school. A probate administrator is a person or institution appointed by the court (in the absence of a will otherwise naming an executor)(...) Read More
    A person is appointed by the court to administer an estate when someone dies with a will that does not name an executor. The executor of this type must be able and willing, but it is often months before they are found in instances where there(...) Read More
    The actual, open, and notorious possession of the real property,for a continuous period of time, held adversely and in denialand in opposition to the title of any other claimant. Read More
    An individual who swears to uphold certain principles. Read More
  • Affidavit
    A written statement made under oath. An affidavit is a written statement that can be sworn in as true, but only if made voluntarily and without coercion. It's important to note who the person making this statement has knowledge of what they(...) Read More
  • Age of majority
    Age of majority The age when a person acquires all the rights and responsibilities of being an adult. In most states the age of majority is 18. Read More
    To change a document that has been filed in court by replacing it with a new version. In Probate, an amendment will be given another hearing date so there can be more discussion on what is being changed and how best to resolve the issue at hand. Read More
    To add or change a portion of the document that has been filed in court. In Probate, amending an original petition will not be given a new hearing date but instead it must simply comply with all requirements for further progress on its journey(...) Read More
    Administration in a state other than the decedent’s domicile, when there is also an administration at their place of residence. Read More
    An individual who is the beneficiary of an annuity. Read More
    When one's physical presence is required by law, they must present themselves to the jurisdiction of a court. A document identifying them as counsel will be filed with this presentation and show their legal representation for future hearings(...) Read More
    All property other than income that is part of an estate. This includes real estate, cars, furniture - anything with intrinsic or sentimental value to the deceased that they would have wanted back when passing on their legacy in life will be(...) Read More
  • Assignment Of Inheritance
    The transfer of legal rights from one person to another. An assignment is a transfer of assets by way of an agreement. It can be the entire estate or just part, depending on what you and your loved ones want to happen. Assignments are common(...) Read More
    The act of witnessing the signing of a document by another, and the signing of the document as a witness on a will. A will is a valuable document that requires both the signature of its maker and two or more witnesses in order for it to be valid. Read More
    The clause generally appears near an instrument's conclusion where those reading it certify their own execution under penalty for perjury if what’s written therein isn't true." Read More
    The person who has been given power of attorney to act on behalf of another. Read More
  • b
  • Beneficiary
    An individual or entity to whom a gift or property is made.  Person named in a will or insurance policy to receive money or property; person who receives benefits from a trust. Read More
    In the legal world, a first-person reference is used to leave someone's personal property in your will. Read More
    The legal term is used to describe personal property left in a will. This includes everything from your clothes and furniture, but not cash or other financial assets like stocks or bonds." Read More
  • Blocked Account
    A blocked account in probate refers to cash or securities that are placed in a bank subject to withdrawal upon court order. A blocked account is a bank or other account created by court order, requiring a court order to deposit or withdraw(...) Read More
  • Probate Bond
    A document that guarantees the victim will be compensated if a person occupying the trust does not carry out his or her legal and ethical responsibilities. If an executor, trustee, or guardian wrongfully deprives someone of their property(...) Read More
    A legal brief is a written document that outlines the party's arguments in court. Read More
    A trust that accounts for estate taxes by giving just enough of the decedent's property to take advantage of this unified credit. It has also been called a "credit shelter" or marital life estate trust because it shelters assets from taxation(...) Read More
  • c
    Legal capacity is the attribute a person can acquire new rights, or transfer them depending on their mental state. This does not necessarily mean they are insane because sometimes there may be legal reasons for it like being under coercion(...) Read More
  • Capital Gains
    Capital gains refer to the profit made from the sale of a capital asset, such as real estate, jewelry, or stocks and bonds. Capital gains taxes are incurred when individuals and corporations sell their investments. Capital gains refer to the(...) Read More
  • Capital loss
    The loss that results from the sale of a capital asset, such as real estate, jewelry, or stocks and bonds. When a loss is incurred it counts against other gains and there are fewer tax consequences. Many people are unaware that a capital loss(...) Read More
    The case management conference (CMC) is a hearing between the judge and parties. It usually happens before trial, where evidence isn't presented; instead it's used for striking an agreement or coming to terms with everything that needs(...) Read More
    When a case file is notated as authentic, complete and true representation of the original document it becomes a certified copy Read More
    The transfer of a case from one judicial district to another. This process can be quick and easy, or it may lead you on an emotional rollercoaster with many twists and turns in between. Read More
  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy
    A type of bankruptcy in which a person’s assets are liquidated (collected and sold) and the proceeds are distributed to the creditors. Read More
  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy
    A type of bankruptcy in which a person keeps his assets and pays creditors according to an approved plan. A petitioner will request to reorganize assets and request for debts to be forgiven. A typical chapter 13 process is listed(...) Read More
    Any tangible, moveable thing is called a chattel. Unlike real property which cannot be physically moved from one location to another but has value based on what it represents (a house for example). Read More
    A court-issued writ that commands a person to appear at the specified time and place for whatever reason, or not do so. An order or summons given when initiating conservatorship proceedings with an intention of protecting your loved one from(...) Read More
  • Codicil
    A codicil is a legal document that acts as an addendum to your will. For example, if you want to change some of the provisions in it, then all you have to do is include those changes and additions into this supplemental section without having(...) Read More
    A person who is appointed by the court to hear and make decisions concerning certain limited legal matters, e.g., traffic commissioner or small claims judge. The power given them allows for a more streamlined solution in these cases; it also(...) Read More
  • Common-law marriage
    In some states, a couple is considered married if they meet certain requirements, such as living together as husband and wife for a specific length of time. Such a couple has all the rights and obligations of a traditionally married couple. Read More
  • Community property
    Property acquired by a couple during their marriage. Refers to the system in some states for dividing the couple’s property in a divorce or upon the death of one spouse. In this system, everything a husband and wife acquire once they are(...) Read More
    Any information introduced into a court proceeding that is not available to the general public. This can include anything from privileged conversations between attorneys and clients, details of witness interviews or personal lives revealed(...) Read More
    Lawyers are often found in situations where they have competing duties that could make it difficult for them to fulfill their professional obligations fairly. Read More
    The power to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated individual is unique and carries with it a great responsibility. Only if the court grants this conservatorship can they do so, after notice motion has been made by you as their(...) Read More
    A person who is unable to protect and manage their personal care or financial affairs because the court has appointed a conservator. Read More
  • Conservator
    Person or institution designated by the court to protect the interests of an incompetent and act on his/her behalf. Sometimes called a guardian. Read More
    Appointment of a manager for the financial affairs or personal care in instances where one is either physically or mentally unable to handle them. Read More
    The conservatee’s financial obligations and assets. Read More
    Disobedience of a court order is considered obstruction, and it may be punishable by fine or imprisonment. Read More
    A person who contests that an individual's last testament was valid and binding, usually because it does not comply with certain legal requirements or contains errors in organization. Read More
    The process of challenging another person's position in a court proceeding, whether it is the plaintiff or prosecutor making an adverse claim against you. Read More
    Any person who is the beneficiary of a will may be entitled to property under certain conditions. These prior obligations reduce the chances that you'll receive anything if they're not satisfied, but it's important for everyone in this(...) Read More
  • Contract
    An agreement between two or more parties in which an offer is made and accepted, and each party benefits. The agreement can be formal, informal, written, or oral. Some contracts are required to be in writing to be enforced. Read More
    The attorneys in your case will receive an award of money for expenses or reimbursement, which is determined by law. Read More
    Conducts field investigations and assessments with individuals applying for guardianship of the estate or conservatorship. The investigator interviews involved parties, relatives, attorneys in order to make recommendations about suitability as(...) Read More
  • Creditor
    A person (or institution) to whom money is owed. Read More
  • Creditor Claim
    The document representing a creditor’s basis for payment of a debt. These claims are usually filed with a Court and served upon the personal representative or the attorney. Paying decedent's debts to creditor claims during probate For(...) Read More
  • Creditor claims period
    Specific time frame, as defined by state probate laws, during which creditors can file a claim against a decedent’s estate. Read More
  • Custodian
    Under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, the person appointed to manage and dispense funds for a child without court supervision and accounting requirements. Read More
  • d
  • Debtor
    Person who owes money. Read More
  • Decedent
    Person who died. Read More
    The judgment is a formal, legal pronouncement that vindicates one party's rights and sets them above those of another person or organization. Read More
    A written statement that is made under penalty of perjury. All declarations must be dated and signed by the declarant, with an executed copy being sent to any relevant parties in order for them to verify its authenticity. The key point(...) Read More
    A decree is a formal court order issued from an authority. Read More
  • DEED
    A legal document that defines the boundaries and ownership of a piece of property. The seller transfers their rights by delivering it to you in exchange for money, so this way both parties know exactly what each side has accomplished from(...) Read More
  • Default
    The failure to fulfill a legal obligation, such as neglecting to pay back a loan on schedule. Read More
    A written response to a lawsuit which seeks dismissal on the grounds that even if true, there is no legal basis for it. Some causes of action may be defeated by demurrer while others will survive and can proceed in court with proper pleading;(...) Read More
    In family law, a person who depends on another for their financial support. In juvenile court, it's often used to describe minors that have been abused or neglected by parents and must be placed into protective custody until they can be(...) Read More
    Developmental disabilities are a type of mental disability that begins before an individual attains age 18, and continues indefinitely. Developmental conditions include intellectual (or cognitive) disability (also known as ‘mental(...) Read More
    A legal term that now means any real or personal property transferred under the terms of a will. It used to be only referring to immoveable assets, but is expanding its meaning in an effortless manner! Read More
    A person or entity who inherits property from a will. Read More
    A legal document that authorizes the termination of life support in case a person becomes incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves. Read More
    The act of paying out money, it is a common practice that allows people to settle their debts or accounts payable. Read More
    A probate court will issue an order releasing the administrator or executor from their duties when they have completed all of them, but can also happen in between if this individual decides to withdraw. Read More
    The disavowal or renunciation of a claim, power vested in someone and formerly alleged by them. The denial for any interest one might have had as well as the loss of property that was attributed to him/her. Read More
    A legal representative of an estate. Read More
  • Docket number
    Number designation assigned to each case filed in a court. Read More
    The beneficiary of a trust is the donee. Read More
    A person who donates their property to another, in the form of a trust. Read More
    A person who becomes disabled or incapacitated can use a durable power of attorney to name another individual to act in their behalf. Read More
    A legal document that allows an individual to designate another person, in their absence or inability for whatever reason (illness), who has the power and right on behalf of them with regard to healthcare decisions. Read More
  • e
  • Easement
    Gives one party the right to go onto another party’s property. Utilities often get easements that allow them to run pipes or phone lines beneath private property. Read More
  • Elective share
    Refers to probate laws that allow a spouse to take a certain portion of an estate when the other spouse dies, regardless of what was written in the spouse’s will. Read More
    When a judge is unable or unwilling to sign court orders, the clerk of their own superior may be appointed as an "elsor" (someone who signs) and give their consent. Read More
  • Emancipation
    When a minor has achieved independence from his or her parents, often by getting married before reaching age 18 or by becoming fully self-supporting. Read More
  • Encumbrance
    Any claim or restriction on a property’s title. Read More
    The difference between what you owe and the value of your property. Read More
    Erratas are often used to correct errors in printing and writing. For example, misspellings or omissions can be fixed with an errata page attached so that it will not happen again when the book is printed again. Read More
    The closest equivalent to this would be if you died without an heir and your property was then given back into state control. Read More
  • Escrow
    Money or documents, such as a deed or title, held by a third party until the conditions of an agreement are met. For instance, pending the completion of a real estate transaction, the deed to the property will be held “in escrow.” Read More
  • Escrow account
    A special account in which a lawyer or escrow agent deposits money or documents that do not belong to the lawyer or the law firm. Read More
  • Estate
    Many people are curious about the exact definition of an estate and think that it just refers to rich people, while that isn't exactly wrong there are specific definitions of an estate and broader reaching uses. In laymen's terms, an estate is(...) Read More
  • Ex parte
    Latin that means “by or for one party.” Refers to situations in which only one party appears before a judge. Read More
  • Executor
    A person or institution named in a will and appointed by the court to oversee and manage an estate, including the distribution of assets and satisfaction of creditors and taxes. What does an estate executor do? An executor has many(...) Read More
    A certification from a judge of the superior court which attests that their signature is authentic, and can be trusted. Read More
    The physical object that is introduced in court and identified as evidence. Read More
    The expenses incurred by an executor or administrator in carrying out the terms of a will. These include probate court fees, attorney’s fees and accountant's costs among others as well as appraiser's services which may be necessary for valuing(...) Read More
  • f
    The price at which an item of property would be purchased by a willing buyer, and sold by its owner. This term refers specifically to the profit made on these transactions- it does not include any expenses or other costs associated with(...) Read More
  • Family limited partnership
    A legal partnership between members of a family for the management and control of property. Read More
    A person or organization that manages property for a person, with the legal responsibility of taking care of it to make sure everything runs smoothly. They have high standards and are called upon in cases where there is no one else around(...) Read More
  • Fiduciary duty
    An obligation to act in the best interest of another party. For instance, a corporation’s board member has a fiduciary duty to the shareholders, a trustee has a fiduciary duty to the trust’s beneficiaries, and an attorney has a fiduciary duty(...) Read More
  • Final Distribution
    The final distribution of probate is the transfer of title and assets to the heirs and beneficiaries named in the decedent's estate. This takes place after the probate has been fully administered and the judge signs off that the estate is(...) Read More
    A determination of fact by a judicial officer or jury. The term is often used in reference to trials, but it can also apply when one person makes an implied threat against another for any reason. Read More
  • Foreclosure
    When a borrower cannot repay a loan and the lender seeks to sell the property. Read More
  • Form 1040
    Form 1040 refers to federal income tax that may have to be paid during the probate process. Filing form 1040 federal income tax during probate At the death of the decedent, all his income, deductions, and credits he is entitled to will(...) Read More
  • g
    The agent to whom all property and assets are entrusted. Read More
  • Grantor
    The person who sets up a trust. Read More
  • Guardian
    Person appointed by the court to take care of minor children or incompetent adults.Sometimes called a conservator. Read More
  • Guardian ad litem
    Latin for “guardian at law.” The person appointed by the court to look out for the best interests of the child during legal proceedings. Read More
    The person charged with the responsibility to make decisions about a minor’s personal care or financial affairs until they come of age. Read More
  • h
  • Heir
    Person entitled to inherit property of the decedent. An heir is a person who inherits or expects to inherit property from an ancestor. One of the primary examples would be that when someone's father dies, they are their sole heirs and will(...) Read More
  • Heiress
    An Heiress is a woman who is legally entitled to the property or assets of another person when that person passes away. An heiress is another name for a female heir. The term heiress was coined in the early 1900 and was commonly used when(...) Read More
  • Holographic Will
    A will that is handwritten and signed by the person making the will. A holographic will must be handwritten and signed by the person who creates the will. It's important to keep these points in mind to understand what constitutes a(...) Read More
  • i
    The Latin word for "in the way of a pauper." This means that if you are bankrupt, your court costs will be waived and this makes it easier to get loans or leases. Read More
    A person who represents themselves in court without the help of a lawyer is said to appear pro per. Read More
    The inability to make decisions on one’s own behalf. Read More
    Law no longer has an inheritance tax but there may be other taxes owed on death such as local property and income taxes; these fees must still adhere by law while also providing credits towards paying off certain amounts like Medicare Part B(...) Read More
    The act of writing between the lines is a technique that allows one to analyze an instrument. Read More
  • Inter Vivos Trust
    A trust is set up during the lifetime of a person to distribute money or property to another person or organization (as distinguished from a person who transfers money or property after death. An Inter Vivos Trust is created by a living person(...) Read More
  • Intestate
    Intestate refers to dying without a legal will. When a person dies in intestacy, determining the distribution of the deceased's assets then becomes the responsibility of a probate court. An intestate estate is also one in which the will(...) Read More
    A list of all assets in the estate at the beginning or during a guardianship, conservatorship. Cash items are valued by their fiduciary; other valuable properties will receive an appraisal from someone who knows what they're worth. Read More
  • Inventory of probate assets
    An inventory of probate assets is a full accounting of all of the assets in the estate as well as the creditors to the estate. The executor will present the inventory of assets and creditors to the probate judge. What is an Inventory of(...) Read More
  • Irrevocable trust
    An irrevocable trust is created during the maker’s lifetime that does not allow the maker to change it. An irrevocable trust can not be changed after they are made. Irrevocable trusts are useful financial tools because there is a set structure(...) Read More
  • IRS Closing Transcripts
    The IRS has a form letter that must be requested for all estate tax returns filed on or after June 1, 2015, estate tax closing letters are issued upon request from the estate (taxpayer) and must be submitted in order to close the(...) Read More
    A term often used in place of issue is “lineal descendants.” The word can have a variety of meanings, but when it comes to family trees this one simply means all-natural children and their kids down through the generations who are adopted by(...) Read More
  • j
    Joining multiple legal issues together to be heard in one trial is the process of "Joinder." Joiners are utilized when two or more parties' disputes overlap, making it easier for a court to hear all involved cases as well as avoid having them(...) Read More
  • Joint and survivor annuity
    A form of pension fund payment in which the retired participant gets a check every month. When the participant dies, the spouse continues to get a monthly check equal to one-half of the benefit for the rest of his or her life. Read More
  • Joint tenancy
    A way to title (own) property where each person (tenant) owns an undivided interest. When one tenant dies, his or her interest passes to the survivor. Read More
    A court’s decision is authoritative and binding. Read More
    The Judicial Council is an essential body to the administration of justice in Florida. It was established for two main purposes: 1) standardizing court practices and procedures by adopting rules from other states; 2), setting up standards that(...) Read More
    The Judicial Council of Florida has created many forms to standardize the preparation and formatting for court documents. Litigants must use mandatory Judicial Council filings, but may also choose optional ones if they wish upon receiving them(...) Read More
    A Judicial Officer is an official who has the power to decide matters before them. This may include all judges, including those on Supreme Court Justice jobs  "What do you think about when someone says 'judge'?" Read More
    In the United States, courts are given authority by geographic location and case type. Read More
  • k
    The relatives of the decedent are those persons who would inherit from them under Florida's Probate Code. Read More
  • l
    The failure of a gift of property is left in the will because when someone dies, their beneficiary is deceased and there's no alternate to inherit. California has an "antilapse" statute," which prevents gifts from going away unless relatives(...) Read More
    One of the more common terms in English is bequest or devise. It means a will, where an individual leaves his personal property to another person upon death - sometimes without any special condition attached (such as providing for children). Read More
  • Legatee
    a Legatee is a person named in a will to receive property. A legatee is another name for the more commonly used term beneficiary. Read More
  • Letters of Administration
    The court document that establishes the petitioner’s authority to act as personal representative (administrator). Letter Testamentary are issued to an executor. Read More
  • Lien
    A claim against someone’s property. A lien is instituted to secure payment from the property owner if the property is sold. A mortgage is a common lien. Read More
    A person's ownership of real estate changes depending on the type they hold. If you only have a right to possession for your life, then it will pass onto someone else after yours. Read More
    A type of conservatorship for developmentally-disabled adults that can give them the opportunity to live their life on a more meaningful level. Read More
  • Living trust
    A trust created during the maker’s lifetime. Some living trusts are set up so that they can be changed during the maker’s lifetime. These are called “revocable.” Others, known as “irrevocable,” are set up so that they cannot be touched. Read More
  • Living will
    A document that states a person’s wishes regarding life-support or other medical treatment in certain circumstances, sometimes when death is imminent. Read More
    A lodgment is a means of submitting documents to the court temporarily. When submitted with an Accounting, it can be used as supporting evidence for one-time hearings like divorce proceedings or tax returns that are too large and need filing(...) Read More
    The Lanterman Petris-Short Act allows for the involuntary detention and treatment of a person who appears dangerous to themselves or others. This can happen when someone has been diagnosed with mental illness, which makes them seem like(...) Read More
  • m
  • Marital exemption
    A tax provision that allows an unlimited amount of property of one spouse to transfer to the other upon death without incurring estate or gift tax. Read More
  • Minor
    A person who does not have the legal rights of an adult. A minor is usually defined as someone who has not yet reached the age of majority. In most states, a person reaches majority and acquires all the rights and responsibilities of an adult(...) Read More
    A motion is a formal request made to the judge for some sort of order. Motions can be filed in any variety and purpose, such as continuing one's trial date, obtaining clarification or modification on an existing position among other things you(...) Read More
    A motion made before a trial begins asking the court to decide whether particular evidence will be admissible. A "motion in limine" can also refer simply as an editing of what's heard, and is most often used by parties who believe such(...) Read More
  • n
    At death, the value of all property owned less any liabilities is passed on to survivors. Read More
    The people who are closest to you in terms of bloodline when it comes to intestate succession under Florida law. Read More
  • Notary public
    A person authorized to witness the signing of documents. Read More
  • Notice of Proposed Action
    Formal written notice by a personal representative with full authority (under the Independent Administration of Estate Act) to the interested parties in an estate, of the intent to take certain action (e.g. sell real property) on or after a(...) Read More
    The phrase, “now for then” is a Latin word that means you can issue an order on one date but it will be effective retroactively. Read More
    A will is a legal document in which you can leave your assets to loved ones according to certain conditions. Not all wills are valid however; Florida requires oral, not written forms for its residents’ Islands. Read More
  • o
    An order to show cause is a binding legal document that compels the individual to appear before it at an appointed date and time. If the individual fails or refuses, penalties may be imposed by way of fines or incarceration depending on their(...) Read More
  • p
    Being in charge of managing a company's finances is an important responsibility. It affects how much money employees will be able to take home every week and what kind they'll receive, but it also has some less obvious effects on morale for(...) Read More
  • Pension plan
    An employer’s program for providing retirement income to eligible employees. Read More
  • Per stirpes
    Latin for “by familial stocks.” Distribution of an estate equally among the members of a group of descendants having a particular degree of kinship (as children), with the issue (that is, the offspring) of a deceased member of that group(...) Read More
  • Personal Property
    Anything owed by a person that can be moved such as money, securities, jewelry, etc. Read More
  • Personal representative
    A person who manages the legal affairs of a decedent in probate. If the decedent had a will, then the personal representative is known as the Executor (if the Executor is female, Executrix). If the decedent did not have a will and the assets(...) Read More
  • Petition
    A written, formal request properly filed with the Court, for a specific action or order. Some form petitions are preprinted and available on the Court’s websites. Read More
  • Petition for probate
    The probate court document that summarizes a will’s provisions and names the heirs. Read More
    A petitioner is always in need of an opponent, or respondent. The person who opposes their prayer and raises objections to what they are petitioning for is called “respondent”. Read More
    The allegations by each party of their claims and defenses in a civil case. Read More
    Points and authorities refer to the written legal argument given in support of a motion. It includes references to past cases, statutes, as well other statements about law that give added emphasis on its legality for your demand being made." Read More
  • Power of attorney
    The authority to act legally for another person. Read More
    The plaintive is the part of a complaint or petition which asks for relief from suffering, and may include any damages that are desired. The payer is the individual or entity that pays for the settlement. Read More
    This term is often used in cases where a person has died before their spouse. Read More
    A person who is not mentioned in a will and whom the testator overlooked when making his/herwill may be entitled to receive an inheritance. If courts determine that this heir was pretermitted, he or she gets their share of the estate as if(...) Read More
    A temporary, substitute commissioner or referee who is acting in place of another when they are not available. The Latin word for “for the time being” can be translated as pro tem which means “temporarily;” this same meaning applies to(...) Read More
  • Probate
    The court-supervised process whereby a decedent’s assets are distributed to a decedent’s heirs and creditors are paid back after s/he dies. The legal process of administering a decedent’s estate. Also, a judicially supervised process for(...) Read More
  • Probate attorney
    A probate attorney is someone that works on behalf of the estate or beneficiaries as well as the judge and the executor to get the best outcome for all parties. Probate attorneys are the most expensive part of probate and according to(...) Read More
  • Probate Court
    The court that handles matters concerning wills estates, such as the distribution of property or money to those named in a will. In California, the Probate Court also handles guardianships and conservatorships. Read More
    All the assets owned at death that require some form of legal proceeding before title may be transferred to a proper heir. Property passing through probate are in an estate, not just those things which automatically transfer without any action(...) Read More
    The Probate Examiner examines files and documents in pending probate matters, providing a technical review to ensure that they have proper notice for the court hearing. The work-product is then posted prior so parties can make any corrections(...) Read More
  • Promissory note
    A promissory note is a signed document containing that written promise to pay or repay a stated sum of money to a specified person or the bearer at a specified date or on-demand. A promissory note is a financial instrument that contains a(...) Read More
    A formal notice of service filed with the court that proves when documents were first served on a party in an action. Read More
  • Property
    Anything that can be owned such as money, securities, land, buildings, real estate, watches, jewelry and other tangible items. Intellectual property is also something that can be owned if it is outlined in a legal document. Read More
    An officer of the court who handles all aspects related to an estate when no other person has been appointed as executor or administrator. Read More
    The guardian or conservator is an appointed county officer (and staff) authorized by law to serve as the person's legal representative. Read More
    A court record is a document that may be inspected by anyone. Read More
  • q
  • Quitclaim deed
    A deed that transfers the owner’s interest to a buyer but does not guarantee that there are other claims against the property. Read More
  • r
  • Real property
    Land and all the things that are attached to it. Anything that is not real property is personal property. A house is real property, but a dining room set is not. Read More
    When a person dies, their assets are usually probated to determine what should happen with them. The court makes sure that all of these items are distributed according to the law in place and reports any receipts from those funds on schedule(...) Read More
    Private, nonprofit agencies that contract with the state to provide services for persons living with disabilities. There are 21 regional centers throughout North Carolina and each one operates differently from one another in what they do or(...) Read More
  • Residuary estate
    Also known as residue of the estate. Portion of the estate left after bequests of specific items of property are made. Read More
  • Residuary legatee
    The person or persons named in a will to receive any residue left in an estate after the bequests of specific items are made. Read More
    A Respondent in a matter is the person against whom one's petition for dissolution, nullity or adoption has been filed. Read More
  • Retainer
    Refers to the upfront payment a client gives a lawyer to accept a case. The client is paying to “retain” the lawyer’s services. Read More
  • Revocable trust
    A legal document that may be changed or cancelled that allows you to maintain control of your assets. It is used to avoid probate and for estate planning purposes. Read More
  • Right of survivorship
    In a joint tenancy, the property automatically goes to the co-owner if one of the co-owners dies. A co-owner in a joint tenancy cannot give away his or her share of the property. Right of survivorship is based on the way the property is(...) Read More
  • s
    A court order is the only way to get a closer look at these records, but it's not easy. Courts are really protective of their privacy and will do everything in their power to keep people from seeing what they have found out about you or anyone(...) Read More
  • Self-proving will
    A will accompanied by a sworn statement from witnesses and signed before a notary public. Read More
  • Small Estate
    A decedent’s estate may avoid a formal probate administration and have property transferred directly to an heir if the decedent’s estate meets the requirements of California Probate Code §13100 et. seq. (e.g. estates less than $100,000). Read More
    When someone is appointed as the "special administrator" of an estate during an emergency or challenge, they have a limited time to maintain and preserve it. The role does not necessarily mean that they will take over probate proceedings from(...) Read More
    The 1990 act that allows certain undocumented children to become Lawful Permanent Residents was a result of the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. This law only applies in state juvenile systems and, among other criteria such as abandonment or(...) Read More
    A Special Needs Trust will allow the beneficiary of a trust to have their assets protected so that they are not subject to qualification requirements for certain benefits. Read More
    A specific item, distinguished from all others of the same kind belonging to a testator which they designated in their will as going to one specific person. If this particular object is no longer present when that person dies then there can be(...) Read More
  • Spendthrift trust
    A trust designed to keep money out of the hands of creditors, often established to protect someone who is incapable of managing his or her financial affairs. Read More
  • Spousal right
    The entitlement of one spouse to inherit property from the other spouse. The right varies from state to state. It's important to understand if the state has community property When it comes to property ownership it's important to know(...) Read More
    A person's legal right to file a lawsuit. To become involved, they must be sufficiently affected by the matter at hand and there needs to exist an actual controversy which can only resolved through litigation or some other form of legal action. Read More
    Any written law passed by a state or federal legislative body can be considered an act of Congress. Read More
  • Statutory fees
    In many states and in most probate matters, the amount an attorney can charge for his or her services is specified by law as a percentage of the gross value of the estate. Read More
    Florida form will. Read More
    An agreement between parties or their attorneys. This contract details what will happen if one of the terms are met, and how it can affect either side accordingly. Read More
    It is a Latin phrase meaning “of its own accord.” When judges do something outside the scope of what either party requests, they use this word to describe it. Sua Sponte is used to indicate that a court has taken notice of an issue on its own(...) Read More
    The courts can order a conservator to take certain actions relating the estates of their clients. This includes making gifts or transferring assets into trusts for them, among other things Read More
  • Successor Fiduciary
    The next person or organization appointed if a vacancy arises in a conservatorship, guardianship, or decedent’s estate because of the fiduciary’s death, removal, or resignation. Read More
    When a person dies without leaving behind any property or assets, their family and friends must file an inventory of all the deceased's possessions in order for those items to be distributed according to law. These inventories are known as(...) Read More
    A money judgment which the court can impose on a fiduciary if their improper acts cause losses to an estate will be paid from its assets. Read More
    A surety is one who undertakes to pay money or do any other act in the event that his principal fails therein. Sureties are often used as guarantees for loans, with most requiring them being obligated by law if repayment becomes due and their(...) Read More
    Surety bonds are typically used to protect against the risk of default by an obligee (such as a contractor). Bonds guarantee that if your project fails, they'll be sure and pay up. Surety bonds sometimes are important for probate or estate(...) Read More
    A surety bond rider, also called a superseded suretyship rider is an addendum which can be attached to the original terms of your company's bonding agreement. This document will extend discovery for any pending lawsuits against you and/or(...) Read More
  • t
  • Tangible personal property
    Anything other than real estate or money, including furniture, cars, jewelry, etc. Read More
    The fair market value of all assets owned by a decedent at the date of death (gross estate) should not exceed certain amounts. The total gross estate can include debts from previous years, last illness and funeral expenses as well legal fees(...) Read More
  • Tenancy in common
    A type of joint ownership that allows a person to sell his share or leave it in a will without the consent of the other owners. If a person dies without a will, his share goes to his heirs, not to the other owners. Read More
    A will can be considered to have a testamentary disposition of property if it leaves specific items, such as money and possessions. Leaving property at one's death, most often through a will. The person making the disposition retains(...) Read More
  • Testamentary trust
    A testamentary trust is created by the provisions in a will and typically comes into existence after the writer of the will dies. A testamentary trust is a legal entity that starts upon someone's death. The will names the trustee to manage(...) Read More
  • Testate
    Testate means having a legal will. For a will to be legal and valid it must be written and notarized. The will should fully cover the details of your estate and distribution to beneficiaries after death. The person acting as a witness for this(...) Read More
  • Testator
    The person who makes a will. If you write a handwritten will and sign it yourself then you are the testator of a holographic will which is not accepted in certain states. Even when you hire an attorney to draft a will for you, you are the(...) Read More
  • Title
    Ownership of property. Real property has a title that can be thought of as a bill of ownership. Title is important If you are an heir in probate then you do not technically have the title to any of the decedent's assets like a car title(...) Read More
  • Totten trust
    A bank account in your name for which you name a beneficiary. Upon the death of the named holder of the account the money transfers automatically to the beneficiary. Read More
  • Trust
    The handing over of property to a person to be held for the benefit of another (i.e. held in trust). Read More
  • Trust Accounting
    An estate accounting is different from trust accounting because of the time and purpose for which it takes place, however, trust accounting follows a similar procedure with that of an estate in probate. As the trustee is also required to(...) Read More
  • Trustee
    A trustee is a person or institution that oversees and manages a trust. There are professional trustees who's career revolves around managing trusts. Trustees are important Trustees are important because they control the trust including(...) Read More
    A person who transfers assets into a trust for the benefit of another. It's important to be clear about which role this individual will have with regard to managing those funds; they can either act as grantor (someone granting you legal(...) Read More
  • u
    A minor can have their own property managed by a custodian if the legal guardianship laws are followed. The goal of these regulations is to ensure that minors who do not have the legal capacity to make decisions on behalf of their estate will(...) Read More
  • v
    The geographical limits of the court's jurisdiction is usually determined by county boundaries, or a division with one. Read More
    An oral or written statement that something is true, usually sworn to under oath. This can be used in court as evidence and could help you win your case! Read More
    The form of legal title by which an asset is held. Fiduciaries generally should vest their fiduciary capacity in themselves expressly so as to hold it completely separate from any other person or group's interests, and yet still have access(...) Read More
  • w
  • WARD
    The court grants a person the responsibility of caring for and protecting another. A ward is also the name given to a child who is watched over by someone other than his parents. Sometimes children are known as "wards of the state," meaning(...) Read More
  • Will
    A document that directs the disposition of a person’s property upon death. A will is a legal document that coordinates the distribution of assets after death. A will can appoint guardians for minor children and also designate beneficiaries(...) Read More
  • Will Contest
    A will contest is the legal proceeding challenging a will. Many times family members that are disinheritedCoi will challenge the validity of a will. A will can be challenged for any reason, however, to win a will contest there must be a viable(...) Read More
    A Writ of Execution is the legal document that authorizes a sheriff to seize and sell property in order to satisfy an obligation. The court clerk issues these when they're needed, so you'll want one as soon as possible. Another way to think(...) Read More