There is a lot of unique terminology at ProvenLaw. Here are the most common terms and meanings we'll be using.
Administrator/Executor/Personal Representative: A person appointed by the court to administer (manage or take charge of) the assets and liabilities of a decedent (the deceased); if the person performing these probate services is named by the decedent’s will, they are designated as the executor of the estate.
Beneficiary: One who benefits from the act of another; a party who will benefit from a transfer of property or other arrangement. Examples include the beneficiary of a trust, the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, and the beneficiary of an estate.
Conservator: A person who is appointed by a court to manage the estate of a protected person.
Decedent: The deceased person.
Domicile: A person’s legal home.
Estate Administration: The management and settlement of the estate of an intestate decedent, or of a testator who has no executor, performed under the supervision of a court by a person duly qualified and legally appointed and usually involving: (1) the collection of the decedent’s assets; (2) payment of debts and claims against the estate; (3) payment of estate taxes; (4) distribution of the remainder of the estate among those entitled.; the administration of an estate runs from the date of an individual’s death until all assets have been distributed and liabilities paid. Such administration is conducted by an administrator/executor or personal representative.
Estate Planning: The branch of the law, which in arranging a person’s property and estate, takes into account the laws of wills, taxes, insurance, property, and trusts so as to gain maximum benefit of all laws while carrying out the person’s own wishes for the disposition of their property upon their death.
Estate Tax: A tax imposed on the right to transfer property by death.
Estate: The total property of whatever kind that is owned by a decedent prior to the distribution of that property in accordance with the terms of a will or when there is no will, by the laws of inheritance in the state of domicile of the decedent.
Fiduciary: A term to refer to a person having duties involving good faith, trust, special confidence, and candor toward another; a fiduciary includes such relationships as executor, administrator, trustee, and guardian.
Grantor/Trustor/Settlor: The creator of a trust.
Guardian: A person who has qualified as a guardian of a minor or incapacitated person pursuant to testamentary or court appointment or by written instrument.
Heir: The person appointed by law to succeed to the estate in case of intestacy; one who inherits property, whether real or personal.
Intestacy: The state or condition of dying without having made a valid will or without having disposed by the will of a party of their property.
Issue: A person’s descendants.
Litigation: A lawsuit or legal action, including all proceedings therein; contest in a court of law for the purpose of enforcing a right or seeking a remedy.
Personal Property: In broad and general sense, everything that is the subject of ownership, not coming under denomination of real estate; it includes money, goods, chattels, things in action, and evidence of debt.
Probate: Court procedure by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid; though in current usage this term has been expanded to generally refer to the legal process wherein the estate of a decedent is administered. Generally, the probate process involves collecting a decedent’s assets, liquidating liabilities, paying necessary taxes, and distributing property to heirs. These activities are carried out by the executor or administrator of the estate, usually under the supervision of the probate court.
Real Property: Land, generally whatever is erected, growing upon, or affixed to land; also, rights issuing out of, annexed to, and exercisable within or about land; property which, on death of the owner intestate, passes to their heir; includes underground water rights and oil and gas interests.
Tax: A charge by the government on the income of an individual, corporation, or trust, as well as the value of an estate or gift; the objective in assessing the tax is to generate revenue to be used for the needs of the public.
Trust Administration: The process of carrying out a decedent’s wishes with the assets held in trust.
Trust: A legal entity created by a grantor for the benefit of designated beneficiaries under the laws of the state and the valid trust instrument; the trustee holds a fiduciary responsibility to manage the trust’s corpus assets and income for the economic benefit of all of the beneficiaries.
Trustee: One who holds legal title to property “in trust” for the benefit of another person (beneficiary) and who must carry out specific duties with regard to the property.
Will: Includes codicil and any testamentary instrument that merely appoints an executor, revokes or revises another will, nominates a guardian, or expressly excludes or limits the right of an individual or class to succeed to property of the decedent passing by intestate succession.