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

  • Abate 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
  • Abatement Abatement is a legal term used to explain what becomes of a real estate property when there aren’t adequate shares to split between beneficiaries of a will. Not just real estate, but money and other physical assets can be included as part of(...) Read More
  • Abstract of Judgment An Abstract of Judgement is a court document that states the amount of money a defendant (the debtor) owes the claimant(the creditor), the court costs, and the interest rate on the said amount.  Here, both parties accept the recorded and(...) 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
  • Ad Litem Ad Litem is a probate term derived from Latin words; "for the suit". In law, it's simply described as the act of appointing someone, an attorney to represent or litigation on behalf of a claimant or defendant.  In Ad Litem, The person being(...) Read More
  • Ademption Ademption is a common law doctrine that is used to describe when a real estate property is listed in a will. This is especially if the property wasn't in the testator's possession before he/she died.  Ademption mostly occurs if the said(...) 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
  • Administrator with Will Annexed A person is appointed by the court to administer an estate when someone dies with a will that does not name an executor. When an executor is unspecified or unavailable, a court may appoint a person to fill the role of administrator with will(...) Read More
  • Adverse Possession Adverse possession is a category of probate law that allows an individual who takes possession of someone else’s land to become a legal owner of the property. Otherwise known as squatters’ rights, an adverse possession claim can heavily(...) Read More
  • Affiant Affiant is a legal term in probate used to describe a responsible person who can take a vow or swear under an oath. The person also needs to be aware of all facts presented in all legal proceedings involving affidavits.  As an affiant, you(...) 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 As recognized in law, the age of majority is the beginning point of a person's adulthood. Once an individual gets to this point in their life, they will no longer be considered as a minor. Thus, they are assumed to be legal and can now control(...) Read More
  • Amended Amended is a probate term used to refer to the will that has been updated, changed, and generally improved by an individual.  To change a document that has been filed in court by replacing it with a new version. In Probate, an amendment(...) Read More
  • Amendment An amendment is a probate term used to refer to the will that has been updated, changed, and generally improved by an individual.  To change a document that has been filed in court by replacing it with a new version. In Probate, an(...) Read More
  • Ancillary Administration Ancillary Administration is a process through which a deceased's real estate properties in the state he or she didn't live in are administered to the beneficiaries.  The main purpose of the ancillary administration is to distribute the(...) Read More
  • Annuitant In probate law, an annuitant is entitled to regular monetary benefits of a pension or annuity investment. The annuitant is the owner of the annuity contract. It may also be the surviving child, spouse, friend, or any other person the annuity(...) Read More
  • Appearance During a criminal prosecution, the court demands that the defendant shows up in front of the judge once the proceedings start. State and federal laws of criminal procedures are in charge of appearance. The same is required of heirs,(...) Read More
  • Assets In probate, assets are properties that are bought and held under a particular individual's name. These properties are tied to no beneficiary and not co-owned with anybody. In the event of death, these assets are passed through a probate(...) Read More
  • Assignment Of Inheritance The transfer of legal rights from one person to another. An assignment of inheritance 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.(...) Read More
  • Attestation 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
  • Attestation Clause An attestation clause is a legal term that describes the most important aspect of any will; A lot of people are yet to know this. However, they seem to have a better understanding when you explain the term.  Aside from a testator's(...) Read More
  • Attorney-in-Fact An attorney-in-fact is someone who has been given the power of attorney to act on behalf of another. That someone is acting as an attorney-in-fact doesn’t necessarily mean that they are authorized by the state law. He or she will act according(...) Read More
  • b

  • Beneficiary In probate, a beneficiary is described as an individual who is entitled to gifts gotten from an estate or property of a deceased person.  The gifts a beneficiary will get can be placed under a will. If there isn't a will, then the(...) Read More
  • Bequeath Bequeath is a legal term used to describe the act of leaving or gifting someone an item. This gifting is usually done following the demands of a deceased's will or testament.  When you bequeath property to someone, a group of persons, or an(...) Read More
  • Bequest 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
  • Brief A brief is simply a legal argument that is written and presented to a court. A brief helps the parties involved to reach a quick agreement regarding legal issues that are involved in the case they're trying to solve.  In the court of(...) Read More
  • Bypass Trust A bypass trust is a legal arrangement that prevents a married couple from paying tax on real estate properties and other assets when one of the spouses becomes deceased.  Most times, couples who have enough assets gain more from the bypass(...) Read More
  • c

  • Capacity Legal capacity is the ability or fitness to fulfill a task. In this case, it's described as the legal right, capability, to execute an activity. A person is said to have a legal capacity when they can understand the consequences of an action(...) Read More
  • Capital Gains Capital gains are the extra income or money realized from the sale of your capital assets. This means that the difference that exists between the original amount spent on the purchase of the asset and the amount the asset was sold for leads to(...) 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
  • Case Management Conference A case management conference is a first hearing where the lawyers, judge, and all parties involved come together to discuss a case. The main purpose of a case management conference is to discuss and find out how to move a case(...) Read More
  • Certified Copy A  certified copy of a will or any document refers to an original copy of the document that has been stamped and authenticated by some authorized person.  Notaries can stamp and certify these copies but not always. That a copy is certified(...) Read More
  • Change of Venue In law, the term “ change of venue” is used to refer to the act of moving the location of a trial or a legal proceeding to a different location. If the case is a high-profile one, there might be a need to use a change of venue as a means of(...) Read More
  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy Also known as liquidation or straight bankruptcy, a chapter 7 bankruptcy is a type of bankruptcy that is used to clear off a lot of unsecured debts.  Filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy has proven to be the last option heirs and beneficiaries use(...) 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
  • Chattel A Chattel is a legal term for describing an individual’s personal properties that can be transferred from one location to another. A chattel can be an animate or inanimate object like a vehicle, tool, musical instruments, furniture, hogs,(...) Read More
  • Citation A citation is legally served to a will executor to act after the death of a testator. If he or she fails to act as soon as possible, they are removed as the will executor and the court replaces them with a more willing individual.  The new(...) 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
  • Commissioner A commissioner is a legal term, used to refer to the person who has been appointed by the judge to find information, facts, and hears testimonies regarding a case. Generally, their main duty is to perform specific tasks and functions that are(...) Read More
  • Common-law marriage Common-law marriage is a legal term that refers to a relationship between two individuals who choose to live together without the benefit of a legal marriage ceremony and marriage certificate. For various reasons, some people may decide to(...) Read More
  • Community property "Community property" is a legal term that refers to how property and income obtained during a marriage are treated. Community property laws directly impact the probate procedure and the determination of inheritance. All assets (including(...) Read More
  • Confidential Record Confidential records are any piece of information that should only be made available to a specific individual or group. In the court, it is any information introduced into a court proceeding that is not available to the general public. This(...) Read More
  • Conflict of Interest Conflicts of interest are used when two parties' demands or interests diverge. Relationships and the regulations of organizations and federal and state legislation can lead to a variety of Conflict of interest scenarios. It's easy for(...) Read More
  • Consent for Medical Treatment Consent for medical treatment gives an individual the power and authority to make decisions on behalf of someone who cannot speak for themselves when they require medical treatment--an incapacitated person. As their caregiver/next friend (or(...) Read More
  • Conservatee 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
  • Conservatorship Conservatorship is a legal position granted by the court to somebody responsible for managing the financial and personal affairs of another minor or mentally incapable person. It is possible for a conservator to also act in the capacity of a(...) Read More
  • Conservatorship Estate The conservatee’s financial obligations and assets. Read More
  • Contempt of Court Contempt is defined as "disobeying a court order," or obstructing the justice and the individual who does so is referred to as a contemnor (as in "disobeying a court order"). It is unlawful to be disobedient or disrespectful toward a court(...) Read More
  • Contestant A contestant is a person defending against an unfavorable claim brought before a court by a plaintiff or a prosecutor; contesting a position taken by a party in legal action, such as contesting the validity of a will. A person who contests(...) Read More
  • Contested 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
  • Contingent Beneficiary A contingent beneficiary is an individual designated by an asset owner or financial account holder to receive the benefit of an asset if the primary beneficiary is unable to accept the assets. This is because any person who is the beneficiary(...) Read More
  • Contract In the legal world, a contract is an agreement that defines and governs the rights and obligations between or among its signatories. Once a contract concurs with the necessities of the applicable law, it's de jure enforceable. It is an(...) Read More
  • Costs Payment of fees to the courts or their officers, the amount determined by court rule or statute, is required to be paid by law to them or their officers. This term refers to monetary compensation awarded by the court to a victorious party and(...) Read More
  • Court Investigator Probate court investigators look into those attempting to take on the responsibilities of another person's life and gather information. Adopting a child or taking over decision-making for an older relative are examples of this type of(...) Read More
  • Creditor A creditor is a person or entity who is owed money. If you owe money to someone at any point in time, you are a debtor to them. The powers and definition might vary depending on the type of creditor and debtor involved in the transaction.(...) Read More
  • Creditor Claim When in probate, creditors have a period of time to make a claim on the estate. A credit claim occurs when money is owed by the decedent or the person who passes away. Credits make a claim to the money that is owed to them which must be paid(...) 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 A person who is in charge of something or a person is known as a custodian. Custodians of minors' property, for example. Under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, a custodian is a person who manages and distributes funds for a minor without(...) Read More
  • d

  • Debtor A debtor is a company or an individual who owes money to the creditor or lender. Whenever a debtor obtains funds from a financial institution, the debtor is referred to as a borrower. Whenever the debtor gets funds from a financial institution(...) Read More
  • Decedent "Decedent" is a legal term used by professionals in the domains of taxation, estate planning, and law to refer to a person who has passed away. A decedent who is a genuine taxpayer has all of their possessions become part of their estate, and(...) Read More
  • Decision The decision can apply to both administrative and judicial rulings when used in a general sense. It includes final judgments and rulings, as well as interlocutory or temporary orders issued by the court while the case is still pending the(...) Read More
  • Declaration A declaration is a written statement filed to a court in which the writer swears 'under penalty of perjury that the contents of the statement are true. The writer acknowledges that if he is dishonest, he may face legal consequences, including(...) Read More
  • Decree A decree is the rule of law usually issued by a head of state (such as the President of a republic or the monarch) after following specific procedures (usually established in a constitution). It has the same legal effect as a court order. The(...) Read More
  • Deed A deed is a legal document that transfers real estate or other assets, such as an automobile, to the person who holds it. A deed is a legal document that transfers and defines the boundaries and ownership of an asset to a new owner. When a(...) Read More
  • Default Default A failure to fulfill a legal obligation, such as neglecting to pay back a loan on schedule. When one party to a lawsuit fails to comply with a court-ordered activity, the failure results in the court settling the legal dispute(...) Read More
  • Demurrer A demurrer is a legal term that refers to the act of arguing that despite how factual a complaint or allegation is, the court can decide to dismiss the motion because it’s not enough to establish a legal action. The procedure for establishing(...) Read More
  • Dependent 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 Disability 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
  • Devise 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
  • Devisee A person or entity who inherits property from a will. It is a legal term that now means any real property under the terms of a will. It used to be only referring to immovable assets, but is expanding its meaning in an effortless(...) Read More
  • Directive to Physician 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
  • Disbursements The act of paying out money, it is a common practice that allows people to settle their debts or accounts payable. Read More
  • Discharge 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. Sometimes, an executor can willingly(...) Read More
  • Disclaimer 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. In probate law, a person can(...) Read More
  • Distributee A legal representative of an estate. He or she is seen as the "legal heir" and is the perfect fit to inherit a testator's estate, according to the law, and if there's no will. Another name for a distributee is "next of kin or(...) Read More
  • Docket number Number designation assigned to each case filed in a court. If you have a case in the probate registry, the docket number will help for easier tracking. Once a case Is assigned a docket number, all papers presented to the court must bear(...) Read More
  • Donee The beneficiary of a trust is the donee. Otherwise referred to as a trustee, a donee stands as a third-party and receives benefits after two parties have successfully sealed a contract. One of the contract parties gives the donee a gift. While(...) Read More
  • Donor A person who donates their property to another, in the form of a trust. He or she voluntarily transfers property or money to the donee, with little or no exchange of value on the recipient's part.  After a donor willingly and(...) Read More
  • Durable Power of Attorney A durable power of attorney refers to a "power of attorney" that doesn't come to a halt due to the incapacity of the principal. This means that the durability continues to hold, even when the principal can no longer make decisions or speak for(...) Read More
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare 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. You are well within your(...) 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. Easements are important because they provide a connection between two or(...) 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. According to certain traditions, the surviving spouse usually gets one-third(...) Read More
  • Elisor 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. The term "elisor" refers to a court-appointed official who performs tasks(...) 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. The court can decide to cancel the emancipation order, especially if the concerned minor(...) Read More
  • Encumbrance Any claim or restriction on a property’s title. Read More
  • Equity The difference between what you owe and the value of your property. There are significant benefits of owning a real estate property and wealth building is amongst them. That's why most people implement equity as a key means of building(...) Read More
  • Errata 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. There are times when an(...) Read More
  • Escheat The closest equivalent to this would be if you died without an heir and your property was then given back into state control. In some jurisdictions, banks, landlords, and any other organization that's placed in charge of another's property(...) 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.” Once the(...) 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. Also known as impound accounts, an escrow account covers your property taxes, flood insurance, and homeowners(...) 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. Ex parte typically signifies that one person who also follows the term. The Ex Parte proceedings in the judiciary are always kept(...) 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
  • Exemplification A certification from a judge of the superior court which attests that their signature is authentic, and can be trusted. Only an authorized personnel can attest or execute the exemplification. Exemplified copies are sometimes mistaken for(...) Read More
  • Exhibit The physical object that is introduced in court and identified as evidence. Exhibits are evidence presented to the jury during a criminal or civil trial in the form of physical or written documents. The jurors are given the opportunity to(...) Read More
  • Expense of Administration 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

  • Fair Market Value 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. A Family Limited Partnership (FLP) in probate is a good option for families with significant assets (FLPs). An FLP is a valuable structure for(...) Read More
  • Fiduciary 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
  • Finding 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. In probate, a finding is a decision by the(...) Read More
  • Foreclosure When a borrower cannot repay a loan and the lender seeks to sell the property. Foreclosure is the legal process by which a lender seeks to recoup the amount owed on a defaulted loan by seizing and selling the mortgaged property. Default(...) 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

  • General Administrator The agent to whom all property and assets are entrusted. The general administrator of a county can generally be anyone qualified to serve as an ordinary administrator. In all cases, the duties and obligations are identical, as are all of the(...) Read More
  • Grantor The person who sets up a trust. In probate, a grantor is an individual or other entity that establishes a trust (i.e., the person whose assets are placed in the trust), regardless of whether the grantor also serves as a trustee. The grantor(...) Read More
  • Guardian Person appointed by the court to take care of minor children or incompetent adults.Sometimes called a conservator. If a person is unable to manage their own affairs or finances, the probate court may appoint a guardian to act on their(...) 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. As contrast to a guardian, who would be responsible for the ward's legal affairs, a guardian ad litem(...) Read More
  • Guardianship The person charged with the responsibility to make decisions about a minor’s personal care or financial affairs until they come of age. An adult who looks after a child but is not the child's parent is referred to as a Guardian, and is(...) 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 In the past, many people would write their will on a piece of paper and sign it, but that led to problems with individuals faking wills so a self made handwritten will has developed its own name, referred to as a holographic will or(...) Read More
  • i

  • In Forma Pauperis 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. A person who lacks the financial resources to pursue a lawsuit or criminal(...) Read More
  • In Propria Persona in Pro Per (IN PRO PER) A person who represents themselves in court without the help of a lawyer is said to appear pro per. An abbreviation of the Latin phrase "in propria persona," or "in their own person," pro per refers to a circumstance when the litigant(...) Read More
  • Incapacity The inability to make decisions on one’s own behalf. Incapacity in probate is the inability to take care of oneself, one's possessions, or one's finances due to a lack of physical or mental abilities. It is the failure to comprehend one's(...) Read More
  • Inheritance Tax 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
  • Interlineation The act of writing between the lines is a technique that allows one to analyze an instrument. An interlineation in probate is the insertion of additional language between the lines of a pre-existing legal document, usually to clarify a(...) 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
  • Inventory and Appraisal 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. In a(...) 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
  • Issue 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

  • Joinder 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. As a(...) 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. A form of joint property ownership in which each owner has an equal but separate stake in(...) Read More
  • Judgment A court’s decision is authoritative and binding. Read More
  • Judicial Council 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
  • Judicial Officer 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'?" One who has the authority(...) Read More
  • Jurisdiction In the United States, courts are given authority by geographic location and case type. In legal terms, jurisdiction is the limit of a court's authority to hear and decide on a variety of lawsuits and other legal actions, including appeals(...) Read More
  • k

  • Kindred The relatives of the decedent are those persons who would inherit from them under Florida's Probate Code. Currently, the term "kindred" is used in various provisions of the Probate Code, including a provision specifying the taking of the(...) Read More
  • l

  • Lapse 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
  • Legacy 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. A legatee is a person who gets a legacy in a literal way. A legatee is a person who receives a legacy, which(...) 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. Under Intestacy Rules, a Surrogate Court or probate registry can issue Letters(...) 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. A creditor's security interest or legal right in one's personal property. In most(...) Read More
  • Life Estate 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. A life estate is a special type of co-ownership. The(...) Read More
  • Limited Conservatorship A type of conservatorship for developmentally-disabled adults that can give them the opportunity to live their life on a more meaningful level. Limited Conservatorships are used to appoint an adult caretaker to look after an individual(...) 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(...) 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. Only in the event of a life-threatening illness and inability to express one's wishes for(...) Read More
  • Lodgement 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
  • LPS Conservatorship 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. A spouse can pass all of their property to the other spouse without incurring federal estate(...) 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
  • Motion 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
  • Motion in Limine 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

  • Net Estate At death, the value of all property owned less any liabilities is passed on to survivors. The term "net estate" refers to the portion of a person's estate that remains to be dispersed. It is estimated by taking the value of all the deceased(...) Read More
  • Next of Kin The people who are closest to you in terms of bloodline when it comes to intestate succession under Florida law. Next of kin refers to those who are related by blood, marriage, or another legal link such as adoption. This relationship(...) Read More
  • Notary public A person authorized to witness the signing of documents. A notary public is a state-appointed person who, depending on the state, has the authority to acknowledge signatures, administer oaths and affirmations, take depositions, and issue(...) 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
  • Nunc Pro Tunc 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. It is most often used to correct past judicial errors or oversights that could jeopardize the smooth operation(...) Read More
  • Nuncupative 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. The term "deathbed will" is(...) Read More
  • o

  • Order to Show Cause 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

  • Pecuniary 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. A pension plan is an employee benefit in which the company promises to making regular contributions to a fund set aside to support payments 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. Personal property is often referred to as movable property, chattels, or movables. Due to the fact that it is considered an asset, a lender may evaluate it(...) 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. When a lawsuit is filed, it undergoes a number of steps before being settled.(...) Read More
  • Petition for probate The probate court document that summarizes a will’s provisions and names the heirs. If it is determined that the estate must be administered through probate, you must file a petition to open probate. This notifies the court of the(...) Read More
  • Petitioner 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”. The petitioner is the party who approaches the court with a(...) Read More
  • Pleadings The allegations by each party of their claims and defenses in a civil case. Claim and defense submissions are made in pleadings at the beginning of a case. A complaint is filed by the plaintiff describing the facts of the case. An answer(...) Read More
  • Points and Authorities 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(...) Read More
  • Power of attorney The authority to act legally for another person. Principals who are temporarily or permanently incapacitated, or who cannot sign important documents, are most commonly given power of attorney. The power of attorney can come to an end for(...) Read More
  • Payer 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
  • Predeceased Spouse This term is often used in cases where a person has died before their spouse. A person who dies before their or who does not live long enough to see another person pass away is referred to as a predecessor spouse. When a person who was(...) Read More
  • Pretermitted Heir A person who is not mentioned in a will and whom the testator overlooked when making his/her will 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
  • Pro Tempore 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. The probate court's role is(...) Read More
  • Probate Estate 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
  • Probate Examiner 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
  • Proof of Service A formal notice of service filed with the court that proves when documents were first served on a party in an action. It is a court document submitted by a process server as proof that they served the witness or party in a lawsuit with the(...) Read More
  • Real Property Real property is property thta can not be moved such as a home residence or plot of land. Property is a legal term that refers to communal belongings or wealth, typically with strong implications of individual ownership. In law, the phrase(...) Read More
  • Public Administrator A public administrator is an officer of the court who handles all aspects related to an estate when no other person has been appointed as executor or administrator. In some states, this exists but is called another name. A public(...) Read More
  • Public Guardian (Public Conservator) The guardian or conservator is an appointed county officer (and staff) authorized by law to serve as the person's legal representative. Read More
  • Public Record 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. Deeds are used to transfer the ownership of a property. For a deed to be valid, it must include some basic(...) 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. Real property, on the other hand, is described as the benefits, rights, and(...) Read More
  • Receipts 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
  • Regional Center Regional centers are developed to help individuals with disabilities. Private, nonprofit agencies contract with the state to provide services for persons living with disabilities. For instance, there are 21 regional centers throughout North(...) 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. The assets remaining in a deceased person's estate after all bequests, debts, taxes, and other expenses (such as probate(...) 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. Once specific bequests have been made, the remaining estate of the testator is given to the residuary legatee. The(...) Read More
  • Respondent A Respondent in a matter is the person against whom one's petition for dissolution, nullity or adoption has been filed. Respondent refers to the party who has been served with a petition, especially one that is on appeal. It is possible for(...) 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. A retainer fee is an advance payment paid by a client to a specialist, and it is regarded as a down payment on(...) 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. Unlike a will, the assets in a revocable trust are transferred while the(...) 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

  • Sealed Record 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. A self-proving will is a standard will that meets certain criteria that enables it to be approved without going through probate court. 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(...) Read More
  • Special Administrator 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
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status 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
  • Special Needs Trust 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. The portion of a person's financial need not covered by public(...) Read More
  • Specific Bequest A specific item, distinguished from all others of the same kind belongs 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. A separate legal body, a spendthrift trust. The trust distributes cash to your(...) 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
  • Standing 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(...) Read More
  • Statute Any written law passed by a state or federal legislative body can be considered an act of Congress. When enacted into law, statutes operate as a binding agreement between members of the legislative branch of a state or nation's government.(...) 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. The law of jurisdiction and, in some situations, the judgment of the(...) Read More
  • Statutory Will Statutory wills follow the standard language contained in a state wills statute. Some states have a template and format for their wills and they can be easily followed by the testator. Statutory wills are therefore very simple and not all(...) Read More
  • Stipulation 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. The conclusion of a lawsuit by mutual consent of the parties. A stipulation(...) Read More
  • Sua Sponte 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
  • Substituted Judgement 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 Debtors must pay their creditors a certain amount(...) 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. When a previous trustee passes away or becomes unable to(...) Read More
  • Supplement 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
  • Surcharge Action 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. An additional price or surcharge. Surcharges are additional charges that are imposed on something that(...) Read More
  • Surety 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 Bond 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
  • t

  • Tangible personal property Anything other than real estate or money, including furniture, cars, jewelry, etc. Tangible personal property is in some ways the reverse of real property, as real property cannot be moved. Unlike intangible assets, tangible assets can be(...) Read More
  • Taxable Estate 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. The tenancy in common can(...) Read More
  • TESTAMENTARY DISPOSITION 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. Depositing one's own money in a bank account for the benefit of another(...) Read More
  • Trust A trust is a legal arrangement in which one person, the trustee, holds property for the benefit of another person, the beneficiary. The trustee can be an individual or a corporation, and the beneficiary can be an individual, a group of people,(...) 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
  • Trustor 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

  • Uniform Transfers to Minors Act 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

  • Venue The geographical limits of the court's jurisdiction is usually determined by county boundaries, or a division with one. venue, in law, location in which a criminal charge or civil lawsuits is to be conducted. Venue is a key term in the(...) Read More
  • Verification 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! An oath or declaration under penalty of perjury under which a statement or pleading is(...) Read More
  • Vesting 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
  • Writ of Execution 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