Probate Terms in Plain English
By LeeAnne, Jan 28 2015 02:53PM
During the probate process you will likely hear phrases that may not make much sense. If this sounds confusing you’re not alone. “Legalese” is a language all its own. Below are some common terms defined in a way that should help with the confusion. It is important that you understand what is going on. Please keep in mind that this is not legal advise, just information. Every situation is different, each state has distinct laws, and procedure can vary from court to court.
Admit: To have a document accepted by the court.
Asset Distribution: When an estate is divided among the heirs.
Beneficiary: Anyone or anything (such as a charity) inheriting or receiving property under a will or trust.
Bond: A bond may be required by a probate court when a person dies intestate, or if their will does not waive the requirement of a bond. The purpose of a bond is to protect the value of an estate until it is properly distributed to the heirs.
Deal with Creditors: The executor pays debts of the estate/deceased person from the assets of the estate.
Estate: What a person owns, which includes everything from houses, cars, clothes, furniture, bank accounts, to pots and pans.
Executor/Administrator: Usually the person named in the will by the deceased person to carry out their instructions. This person has the difficult job of taking care of the estate. When there is no will, a person will be appointed by the court to serve as administrator.
File: Submit a document to the court, for example, “File the application and will with the probate court”.
Guardian ad Litem: A person appointed by the court to represent a minor or other incompetent person in a legal proceeding.
Heirs (pronounced “airs”): People legally entitled to inherit from an estate if a person died without a will; also refers to those inheriting under a will.
Intestate: When a person passes away without a will.
Letters of Administration: Permission letters from the court allowing the executor/administrator to carry out their duties for the estate.
Motion: A document that makes a request to the court.
Personal property: property owned by a person that is moveable (clothes, furniture, cars, electronics, etc).
Probate: The procedural process that of validating a will in court so that the instructions contained in the will can be followed.
Real property: Land, real estate
Testamentary Trust: A trust that is written into a will that only becomes effective after the will is probated.
Trust: A legal entity created by a document that holds property by one person (trustee) for the benefit of another (beneficiary).
Will: a legal document that details what a person wants to happen to their stuff after they pass away signed by that person, notarized and witnessed by two others
Wind up Business affairs: The process of closing a business, or determining how the business will continue without the deceased person. This is largely based on what type of business it is, how the business was set up, and what is written in the governing documents of the business.
If you have questions, please contact a local attorney. Again, this is not legal advise, simply information.