glossary

DEFINITION OF TERMS


Administrator - Person appointed by a probate court when there is no will. Performs functions similar to an executor. Acts on behalf of the estate in areas such as inventorying the property belonging to the deceased, paying debts and taxes, and distributing what’s left to beneficiaries.

Advance Directive - A legal document that allows a person to convey decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time. The Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney are components of this directive.

Affidavit - Written statement signed under oath in front of a notary public.

Affidavit of Authority - Notarized legal document verifying someone as the duly and legally appointed representative or owner of specified property.

Affidavit of Residence - Notarized legal document which attests and confirms the residential location of the person named in the document.

Agent - The person legally empowered to make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated patient.

Annuity - Contract sold by an insurance company designed to provide payments to the holder at specified intervals, usually after retirement.

Assisted Living - Residential facility for those needing assistance with some daily activities but not needing constant care.

Autopsy - Critical examination of the decedent’s body to determine the cause of death.

Beneficiary - A person or organization named in a will, trust, life insurance policy, or other legal instrument as being legally entitled to receive property from a decedent’s estate.

Bond - Form of insurance that protects beneficiaries and heirs from any losses caused by an executor’s inappropriate management of the estate.

Caterers - Business that provides food and service for events.

Cemetery - Land parcel set aside for burying the dead, also called a graveyard.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) - Title awarded in the United States to accountants who meet stringent professional qualifications. State authorities confer the title on those who pass the Uniform CPA Examination, and who satisfy the experience requirement of the particular state.

Charitable Institutions - Organization that meets the requirements of section 501c(3) of the Internal Revenue tax code, operated solely for a religious, charitable, scientific, literary, educational, or similar purpose.

Claims - Written statement by a person, company, or organization citing compensation owed by the decedent. Claims are usually presented to the executor or to the probate court.

Clergy - Body of people ordained for religious duties.

Commission - Written warrant granting power to perform specified tasks.

Conservator - Court appointed third party (fiduciary) responsible for the financial affairs of a child or incapacitated adult. See also Guardian.

Coroner - Public official who investigates by law the cause of death which there is reason to believe is not due to natural causes.

County Court - Also known as Probate Court. A county level, specialized court that deals with matters relating to the administration of estates.

Credit Counselor - Professional who provides assistance in managing debt.

Creditor - Person or business to which money is owed.

Crematory - Business directly responsible for the cremation of the decedent’s remains.

Custodial Care - Non-skilled care that helps an individual with activities of daily living, including such functions administering special diets, and daily medications.

Custodian - Person named to manage property left to a minor until said minor is the age which state law says he/she can receive it. Custodian uses the property for the benefit of the minor in matters of education, health and general support.

Death Certificate - Official government document stating particulars relating to a death, including the name of the deceased, date of birth and death, and cause of death. It is usually certified to by a doctor.

Deceased - A person who has died.

Decedent - A person who has died.

Disposition - Transfer to the care or possession of another.

Domicile - A person’s legal place of residence.

Domiciliary Letters - The document a probate court issues to the administrator of an estate, authorizing them to act on behalf of the estate and to perform all duties required to administer the estate according to state laws.

Durable Power of Attorney - Document in which an individual gives legal authority to another to act or make decisions on their behalf. There are both financial and health care durable powers of attorney.

Employer Identification Number (EIN) - Also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, necessary to open an estate checking account, and used to identify the estate.

Equitable Title - A right a beneficiary retains to benefit from the property as specified in the trust. Also called beneficial title.

Estate - Term used in common law to signify the total of a person's property, entitlements and obligations owned at death.

Estate Administrator - Appointed by a probate court when there is no Will. Performs functions similar to an Executor. Acts on behalf of the estate: inventories the deceased’s property, pays debts and taxes, and distributes what’s left to beneficiaries.

Estate Attorney - Legal agent who has been certified to practice law specializing in estate issues. They are often referred to as a probate attorney.

Estate EIN - Employer Identification Number (EIN). Also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number. Used to identify the estate.

Estate Residence - Home of the decedent; where the decedent lived.

Estate Sales Auctioneer - Firms that assist the executor in the sale of valuable items of the estate. These companies also appraise personal assets.

Estate Taxes - Federal tax applied to the transfer of the decedent’s assets to heirs and beneficiaries, assessed on estates of a certain size. Also called inheritance taxes.

Executor - Person or organization, named in a will, responsible for gathering the deceased person’s property, pays debts and taxes, and distributes what’s left to beneficiaries. Some states refer to executors as personal representatives.

Fiduciary - Legally appointed person, corporation, or association responsible for making and implementing financial or personal decisions on behalf of another person. Examples include (a) a person, corporation, or association that holds assets in trust for a beneficiary, (b) a conservator, and (c) a guardian.

Financial Advisor - Professionals that provide financial services to individuals and businesses. Services may include investment advice, retirement planning, wealth management, insurance, tax planning, business succession planning, charitable planning, legacy planning, and heir preparation.

Florist - Businesses that provide flower care and handling, floral design or flower arranging, merchandising and display and flower delivery.

Formal (probate) - Term used in states that have the Uniformed Probate Code (UPC) laws. Both supervised and unsupervised formal probate require court hearings; supervised is required for specific reasons such as determining heirs, managing large creditor claims, when an estate has more debts than assets, or when minors inherit major property.

Formal Probate - Term used in states that have the Uniformed Probate Code (UPC) laws. Both supervised and unsupervised formal probate require court hearings; supervised is required for specific reasons such as determining heirs, managing large creditor claims, when an estate has more debts than assets, or when minors inherit major property.

Funeral Director - Manages the planning and direction of the funeral ceremony. Responsibilities include the technical services regarding the care, preparation, presentation and final disposition of the deceased.

Funeral Home - Business that provides funeral and burial services for the deceased and their families. Also referred to as a funeral parlor, or mortuary.

Furniture Moving and Storage - Business that provides short and long haul transfers of estate property as well as storage of those items.

Grantor - The person who creates the trust, also called donor or trustor

Guardian - Court appointed third party (fiduciary) responsible for personal day-to-day needs of a child or incapacitated adult. See also Conservator.

Heir - Person who inherits or is entitled to inherit from a parent or predecessor.

Home Health Care - Health care or supportive care provided in the patient's home by a healthcare professional.

Honorarium - Payment for a service for which custom or propriety forbids a price to be set. Examples include payment for clergy services or for a speech given at a funeral.

Hospice - Facility or program designed to provide a caring environment in meeting the physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs of a terminally ill patient. Also called palliative care.

ILIT - Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust

Incapacitation - Lacking physical or intellectural power or of natural or legal qualifications.

Informal (probate) - Term used in states that have the Uniformed Probate Code (UPC) laws. Big and small estates can use informal probate in which the paperwork is filed with the court without formal hearings.

Informal Probate - A term used in states that have the Uniformed Probate Code (UPC) laws. Big and small estates can use informal probate in which the paperwork is filed with the court without formal hearings.

Insolvent - Having has debts in excess of assets, resulting in the inability to pay all liabilities.

Insurance Agent - Individual who is licensed by a state to sell insurance for one or more specific insurance companies.

Insurer - Individual or company who, through a contractual agreement, undertakes to compensate specified losses, liability, or damages incurred by another individual or company. An insurer is frequently an insurance company and is also known as an underwriter.

Intestate - Dying without a valid Will.

Intestate succession - The order of inheritance under state law for a person dying without a Will who leaves behind property greater than the sum of enforceable debts and funeral expenses. In most common-law juristictions (such as the U.S.), property first goes to the surviving spouse, then the children, the parents, the siblings, and the sibling's decendents.

Irrevocable - Cannot be changed or canceled. In the case of a Revocable Living Trust, once the grantor dies, the trust becomes irrevocable.

Joint Survivor - Referred to as joint tenancy when more than one person holds title to property. When one owner dies, the survivor automatically owns the property in entirety.

Jointly Owned with Rights of Survivorship - Referred to as joint tenancy when more than one person holds title to property. When one owner dies, the survivor automatically owns the property in entirety.

Letters of Administration - The document a probate court issues to authorize the administrator of an estate when there is no Will.

Letters of Authority - The document a probate court issues to authorize the executor of an estate.

Letters Testamentary - The document a probate court issues to authorize the executor of an estate when there is a Will.

Living Trust - Legal document created during the grantor’s lifetime, usually to avoid probate. Managed by a Trustee who protects the assets and distributes property as directed by the trust.

Living Will - A legal healthcare document that a person uses to make known his or her wishes regarding life-prolonging medical treatments. It is not the same as a Will.

Mausoleum - An external, free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of the deceased.

Medicaid - Health insurance benefits jointly funded by the U.S. and state governments and administered by states for people with low incomes and resources. This program may go under different names in different states, such as "Medi-Cal" in California, "MassHealth" in Massachusetts, "Oregon Health Plan" in Oregon, "TennCare" in Tennessee, and "Soonercare" in Oklahoma.

Medical Power of Attorney - A legal document which assigns an 'agent' to make a person's health care decisions when temporarily or even permanently incapacitated.

Medicare - Health insurance provided by the U.S. Government for people 65 and older. Special cases such as disability may qualify persons under 65.

Mortuary - A room or building where the deceased is placed until burial. Another name for a funeral home or morgue.

MyPersonalAdministrator - Family Matters USA, a professional organization that assists families in transitioning estates

Non-Appearance Hearing - A legal process conducted by a court that pertains to matters expected to be routine and unopposed and therefore not require the petitioner to appear in court.

Notary - Someone in the US who is legally empowered to witness signatures and certify a document's validity.

Nursing Homes - A residential facility that cares for people with chronic illnesses or disabilities that inhibit the ability to live independently. Also called convalescent homes, long-term care facilities, and skilled nursing facilities.

Payable on Death (POD) - A bank account whose owner has named a beneficiary entitled to receive the assets in the account when the owner dies -- inheriting any money in the account without needing to go through probate.

Payment on Death (POD) - A bank account whose owner has named a beneficiary entitled to receive the assets in the account when the owner dies -- inheriting any money in the account without needing to go through probate.

Personal Property - Possessions or assets other than real estate.

Personal Property Memorandum - Legal document that is referred to in a Will and used to guide the distribution of property, other than real estate, that has a physical existence and an intrinsic value such as jewelry, artwork, furniture, livestock, machinery, equipment, and vehicles.

Personal Representative - Term used by probate courts in some states in place of “executor”.

POD - A bank account whose owner has named a beneficiary entitled to receive the assets in the account when the owner dies -- inheriting any money in the account without needing to go through probate.

Power of Attorney - A legal document providing legal authority for someone to act as the agent (make decisions) for another person on specific matters. Examples include a financial power of attorney and health care powers of attorney.

Probate - The court authorized process that includes validating a Will and appointing an executor to gather the deceased person’s assets, pay debts and distribute remains according to the Will. This process is also sometimes referred to as regular probate.

Probate Court - A county level court that specifically deals with the administration of estates.

Probate Lawyer - A legal agent certified to practice law specializing in estate issues. Also called an estate attorney.

Real Estate Agents - Individuals licensed to negotiate and arrange the sale of land, buildigns, and other real property.

Regular Probate - The term used to identify states that do not utilize the Uniform Probate Code (UPC). Probate is the court authorized process of gathering the deceased person’s assets and distributing them. The probate process is state and/or county specific and may require court hearings as part of the procedure.

Retirement Communities - Planned housing developments for people who have retired from an active working life.

Revocable (trust) - The ability to legally change the terms and end a trust document.

Revocable Living Trust - A trust that allows the grantor to make changes at any time, as well as the right to reclaim the property transferred into it. A Revocable Living Trust document describes how your property should be managed while alive, and how it should be distributed upon death.

Savings Bonds - A registered, non-callable, non-transferable bond issued and backed by the U.S. Government.

Schedules - When this term is used for a Living Trust, Schedules A and B are designed to facilitate listing of the property that will be held in the name of the trust, as well as distribution to any beneficiaries.

Small Estate - An estate that contains property valued small enough to be eligible, under state law, for a simplified probate procedure.

Successor Trustee - The person who takes over in the event of the original trustee’s death or incapacity.

Summary Probate - A probate process used for small estates that is fast, easy, and does not require court hearings. Often the estate distribution is completed in weeks.

Supervised Formal Probate - A term used in states that have follow the Uniformed Probate Code (UPC). This probate procedure requires the executor to get court approval to distribute all property and may require monthly accounting. Usually used when a beneficiary cannot look after their own interests, and needs the court’s protection.

Testamentary Trust - A trust set up to take effect at the Will maker’s death.

TOD – Transfer on death - Ownership to property, usually security accounts, transferred to the beneficiary outside of probate.

Traditional Funeral - A funeral held in a funeral home, either religious or secular, with direct burial and no cremation.

Transfer on Death (TOD) - Ownership to property, usually security accounts, transferred to the beneficiary outside of probate

Trust - A legal relationship in which one person or qualified trust company holds and/or manages property for the grantor or beneficiary.

Trust Checking Account - a checking account opened in the name of the trust to handle expenses, and distribution of cash assets. An EIN is required to open such an account.

Trustee - The person or trust company that holds and manages property for the benefit of a grantor and others.

Unified Probate Code - Standardized set of laws governing inheritance and the decendents estates (Wills, trusts, intestacy, and probate). These laws have been adopted in their entirety by sixteen US states. The remaining states have adopted various portions of the code in a piecemeal fashion.

Unsecured Debts - Financial liabilities not backed by collateral property.

Unsupervised Formal Probate - A term used in states that have the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) laws for probate procedure that reduces the delay of finalization and distribution by eliminating audit and accounting review by the court.

Veteran - A former member of the Armed Services.

Will - A legal document in which a person directs who is to inherit his/her property at death. It often names an executor.

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