Glossary

Personal representatives, executors, heirs, beneficiaries, and trustees learning about the probate process can use this glossary as a starting point. These are basic definitions – call our helpline at (317) 344-8908 to get connected with a professional that can provide detailed explanations based on your specific situation! An expanded glossary is available in our Probate Organizer.

A

ADMINISTRATOR
A person appointed by the court to administer the estate of a person who died without a will (intestate)

ASSETS
All property other than income that is part of an estate.

B

BENEFICIARY
An individual or organization to which a gift of property is made through a legal instrument such as a will, trust, or life insurance policy.

C

CONTESTANT
A person who contests the eligibility of a will to be admitted to probate.

D

DECEDENT
The person who has died.

DEED
A written legal document that describes a piece of property, outlines its boundaries, and denotes ownership.

DEPENDENT
A person who is financially supported by another person, usually a child supported by a parent.

E

ESTATE
A person’s total possessions (assets), including money, jewelry, securities, land, etc.

EXECUTOR
The person named in a will to carry out the directions as set forth in the will (also the personal representative of the estate).

F

FIDUCIARY DUTY
A legal obligation to act in the best interest of another party.

H

HEIR
The person who would naturally inherit property through a will, or from another who died without leaving a will.

I

IRREVOCABLE LIVING TRUST
A trust created during the maker’s lifetime that does not allow the maker or anyone else to change it (a revocable living trust can be changed).

 

L

LIVING TRUST
A trust set up while a person is alive and which remains under the control of that person during the remainder of her life.

LIVING WILL
Also known as a medical directive or advance directive. A written document that states a person’s wishes regarding life-support or other medical treatment in certain circumstances, usually when death is imminent.

M

MARITAL DEDUCTION
A deduction allowing for the unlimited transfer of any or all property from one spouse to the other generally free of estate and gift tax.

P

PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE
The person who is authorized to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate. This person almost always an administrator or executor appointed by the court to administer a decedent’s estate.

PROBATE
The legal process of administering a will. An estate may be probated even if there is no will.

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR
A publicly appointed person who handles the administration of an estate when no other person has been appointed as executor or administrator.

T

TESTATE
A person who has made a will or who has died leaving a valid will; opposite of intestate.

TRUST
A written legal instrument created by a grantor during his or her lifetime or at death for the benefit of another. Property is given to a trustee to manage for the benefit of a third person.

W

WILL
A legal document directing the disposal of the testator’s property after their death. A will is revocable during the maker’s lifetime.

WILL CONTEST
Any kind of litigated controversy concerning the eligibility of an instrument to probate as distinguished from validity of the contents of the will.

For an expanded Probate and Estate Glossary and more helpful resources, download our Probate Organizer!

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