Estate Planning Glossary

Abatement: The reduction of a legacy because there is not enough property in the estate to pay it.

Ademption: When someone is left specific property by will, and on death the property is not owned by the decedent, the gift fails (is adeemed).

Administrator: A male person or corporation appointed to probate and Intestate’s estate. Administratix is a female with the same job. Now called a Personal Representative in Michigan.

Ancestors: Those in your bloodline from whom you are descended. Your mother and father, their parents and grandparents, and so on.

Attorney in fact: See Power of Attorney.

Beneficiary: A person who receives benefits under a will or a trust.

Bequest: Any personal property left by will. Today, this also includes all types of property left by will.

Class: When property is left to a number of persons who are not named by who fit a general description, the property is left to a class. For example, bequests to your grandchildren or your issue would be a gift to a class.

Codicil: A supplement that adds to, deletes from, or changes the provisions of a Will.

Contingent beneficiary: A Beneficiary who receives a benefit only if a future event occurs.

Corpus: The principal or capital sum, especially of an estate or trust.

Curtesy: The right of a widower to take a share of his deceased wife’s estate. Now called Elective Share in Michigan.

Decedent: A person who is deceased.

Distribution (Intestacy) Statutes: The state laws that set forth who inherits your intestate property and in what proportions if you do not have a will.

Donee: A person who receives a gift.

Donor: A person who makes a gift.

Dower: The right of a widow to take a share of her deceased husband’s estate. No called Elective Share in Colorado.

Elective Share: The right of a surviving spouse to take one third of the deceased spouse’s net Probate Estate.

Executor: The person, bank, or trust company that legally steps into the shoes of the decedent, temporarily owns all the decedent’s property, and represents the estate in the eyes of the law. If the person appointed is female, the appropriate term is executrix. In Colorado, the title given to the executor is personal representative.

Fiduciary: A person who exercises rights or manages property for a Beneficiary.

Guardian of the Person: One who has the legal care and control over a minor or an incompetent adult.

Guardian of the Property: One who has the legal care and control over the property of a minor or incompetent adult.

Heir: A person who inherits property from those who die intestate (without a will). For example, if your will left all your property to your heirs, your property would be inherited by the same people, in the same amounts, as if you died without a will.

Inheritance Tax: The tax on recipients of a deceased’s property.

Intestacy Property: The property of an Intestate person that will be distributed to his or her heirs under the Laws of Intestacy. Intestacy Property generally excludes life insurance, property held jointly, and property held in a living trust.

Intestate: As an adjective, to be without a valid will; as a noun, someone who dies without a will. Intestate Succession is the name sometimes given to property inherited as a result of an intestacy.

Irrevocable: Cannot be revoked, amended, changed, or canceled.

Issue: Offspring or descendants. Your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so forth, are your Issue.

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship: A way of holding Title to property by two or more persons so that when one person dies his or her share automatically goes to the surviving joint tenants, and not under the deceased’s Will or under the Laws of Intestacy.

Legacy: A gift of personal property made in a will. The same thing as a “bequest.”

Letters of Authority: Issued by the probate court, these authorize the Personal Representative to probate the estate of the deceased.

Life Insurance Trust: A Living Trust into which proceeds from a life insurance policy will flow. It may also hold other property.

Living Trust: A Trust established by a Settlor while he or she is living.

Living Will: A writing that requests that life will not be prolonged by artificial means when death becomes inevitable. These documents are often executed at the same time a will is signed. The term living will is a misnomer, because it is actually not a will at all. It directs hospitals and doctors about your desire for life sustaining support, or not, in the event of a terminal illness or accident, or if you cannot be restored to consciousness.

Per Capita: A way of dividing a gift so that each designated person gets an equal share.

Per Stirpes: A way of dividing a gift so that the children of a deceased person divide only the share their parent would have taken if living. Simply means that a share filters down through succeeding generations.

Personal Property: Property that is movable or mobile. Any property that is not Real Property.

Pour-Over Will: A Will that transfers all, or a portion, of an estate into a preexisting Living Trust.

Power of Attorney: A writing by which a person (the “principal”) authorizes another person (Attorney-in-Fact or Agent) to act for him or her in a limited or general capacity.

Probate: The process of settling an estate of a deceased and transferring his property to his Heirs or Beneficiaries. Done under the auspices of the Probate Court; supervised or unsupervised.

Probate Estate: Property held in the deceased’s name alone, or his or her percentage interest in property held as a Tenant in Common, that is being probated.

Real Property: Land, and fixed improvements and growing things on the land. Contrast to personal property.

Residue: The remainders of an estate after specific gifts are made.

Revocable: Subject to being revoked, canceled, changed, or modified.

Settlor: A person who establishes a Trust.

Tenancy by the Entirety: A Joint Tenancy with “right of survivorship” where the only two tenants (owners) are husband and wife.

Tenancy in Common: A way of holding Title to property by two or more persons so that when one person dies, his or her share is disposed by a Will or as part of his or her other Intestacy Property.

Testamentary Trust: A Trust established by a Will.

Testator: A male person who makes a valid Will. Testatrix is a female person who makes a valid Will.

Title: Ownership

Trust: An arrangement whereby one person (the Settlor) transfers Rule and/or Personal Property to another person (the Trustee) to hold for the benefit of a third person (the Beneficiary) or the Settlor.

Trustee: The person or institution that holds Trust property, manages it, and distributes it to the Beneficiaries.

Will: A revocable document that is used to direct the distribution of an individual’s property at death. It usually designates an Executor to fulfill the instructions contained in the will. A will can be used to distribute property held in your name alone and your interest in a Tenancy in Common. Usually, it will not govern life insurance, property held as a Joint Tenant with right of survivorship or as a Tenant by the Entirety, or property held in a Living Trust.

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