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This information is not intended to be a definitive legal definition of terms, but, is merely provided to assist the public with general understanding of court terminology. If you have a need for definitive legal definitions of these or any other legal terms, you should seek the services of an attorney.

Glossary of Terms


 

Affidavit

A written or printed declaration or statement of facts confirmed by the oath or affirmation of the party making it.

 

Amendment

Alteration of a law or resolution.

 

Beneficiary

Heir at law, in an intestate estate, and devisee, in a testate estate.

 

Bona Fide

In or with good faith, honestly, openly and sincerely, without deceit or fraud.

 

Caveat

If a creditor of the estate of a decedent is apprehensive that an estate, whether testate or intestate, will be administered without the creditor’s knowledge, or if any person other than a creditor is apprehensive that an estate may be administered, or that a will may be admitted to probate, without the person’s knowledge, he or she may file a caveat with the court. That person will be notified by the court upon the opening of a probate proceeding.

 

Claims

Liabilities of the decedent, whether arising in contract, tort, or otherwise, and funeral expenses. The term does not include expenses of administration or estate, inheritance, succession, or other death taxes.

 

Codicil

A supplement or addition to a will, not necessarily disposing of the entire estate but modifying, explaining, or otherwise qualifying the will in some way.

 

Creditor

An individual or entity to which an estate may be indebted.

 

Curator

A person appointed by the court to take charge of the estate of a decedent until letters are issued.

 

Decedent

The individual who has died.

 

Devise

When used as a noun, it means a testamentary disposition of real or personal property. When used as a verb, it means to dispose of real or personal property by a will. The term includes "gift," "give," "bequeath," bequest," and "legacy."

 

Devisee

A person designated in a will to receive a devise.

 

Disclaimer

The rejection, refusal, or renunciation of a claim, power or property.

 

Domicile

A person’s usual place of dwelling and shall be synonymous with "residence."

 

Elective Share

A widow’s statutory prescribed share.

 

Estate

Property of a decedent that is the subject of administration.

 

Executor/Executrix

A person named by a testator to carry out the provisions in the testator’s will.

 

Exempt Property

Estate property which is not subject to probate proceedings.

 

Family Allowance

A portion of a decedent’s estate set aside by statute for a surviving spouse, children, or parents, regardless of any testamentary disposition or competing claims.

 

Fiduciary

Another name for an executor, administrator or personal representative.

 

Heirs

An individual entitled by law to inherit from another.

 

Homestead

Property which is set aside for the benefit of specific family members, and which cannot be transferred by the decedent to a third party. As long as the homestead does not exceed in area or value the limits fixed by law, in most states it is exempt from forced sale for collection of a debt.

 

Intestate

Without a will.

 

Joint Tenancy

Property held in the names of two or more persons. The property passes to the surviving joint tenant on death of the other joint tenant or joint tenants.

 

Letters

The authority granted by the court to the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate of the decedent and refers to what has been known as letters testamentary and letters of administration.

 

Living Will

A document that specifies an individual’s wishes regarding care and treatment if he or she becomes incapacitated, such as limiting life support that only prolongs dying. Most states have enacted laws regarding living wills, so it is important that the document be in accordance with the statutes of the state in which the subject resides.

 

Personal Representative

The fiduciary named in a will (Executor/Executrix) or appointed by the Register (Administrator/Administratrix) to administer an estate.

 

Per Stripes

To distribute a share to a descendant of a deceased beneficiary.

 

Petition

A written request to the court for an order.

 

Probate of Will

To "prove" a Will by submission to the Register of Wills who determines its validity and issues a decree appointing a personal representative (executor) to administer the estate of the decedent.

 

Property

Real estate and personal property

 

Residuary Devise

A devise of the assets of the estate which remain after the provision for any devise which is to be satisfied by reference to a specific property or type of property, fund, sum, or statutory amount.

 

Self-Proved Will

A will in which at least two witnesses took an oath, included in the will, at the time the will was signed, and in which both the witnesses’ and the decedent’s signatures were notarized by a qualified notary public.

 

Tenants by the Entireties

A form of joint ownership exclusively for husbands and wives. On the death of a spouse, the surviving spouse becomes the sole owner of the property.

 

Testate

Having left a will at death.

 

Testator/Testatrix

The deceased person leaving the will.

 

Trustee

Person or entity authorized by a trust document to handle certain property matters on behalf of another.

 

Will

An instrument executed by a person, which disposes of a person’s property on or after his or her death.