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Here are some of the most common probate terms. Click the down load button for a print out or to your computer. You will remember some of the key words or phrases soon enough:

Administrator: Someone a probate court appoints to
act on behalf of an estate when the will does not name an executor or the named
executor cannot or is unwilling to serve.

Affidavit: A written
statement, signed under oath in front of a notary public.

Ancillary Probate: A probate proceeding conducted in another state from the one the deceased person resided in at the time of death.

Beneficiary: A person or organization that is
legally entitled to receive property under a will, trust, life insurance
policy, or other arrangement.

Codicil: A document that supplements an existing
will. A codicil may explain, change, or revoke provisions in a will. It must be
signed in front of witnesses, just like a will.

Conservator: Someone appointed by a court to manage
the affairs of a person who cannot make decisions about day-to-day care and
other matters.

Custodian: A person named to manage property left
to a minor under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. The custodian uses the
property for the minor’s health, education, and support until the minor reaches
the age at which state law says he or she must receive it.

Decedent: A deceased person.

Devisee: The person to whom lands or other real
property are devised or given by will.

Power of Attorney
: A power of
attorney that remains effective even if the person who created it (called the
“principal”) becomes incapacitated. The person authorized to act (called the
“agent or “attorney-in-fact”) can make decisions on behalf of the principal.
There are two kinds of power of attorney: financial and health care.

Executor: The person named in the will and
appointed by a court to wind up the affairs of a deceased person. In some
states that person is called the “personal representative.”

Fiduciary: Someone who owes a special duty of
honesty and fairness to someone else. For example, an executor owes a fiduciary
duty to the people who are entitled to the deceased person”s property.

Guardian: An adult who has legal authority,
granted by a court, to raise a minor or be responsible for the minor’s

Heir: Someone entitled to inherit another
person’s property.

: A handwritten
will, signed but usually not witnessed. Holographic wills are valid in about
half the states. California recognizes holographic wills.

Intestate: The condition of dying without a will.

Intestate Succession: Inheritance under state law, in the absence of a valid will. In most states, the surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and next of kin inherit, in that order.

Issue: Direct descendants — children, grandchildren, and so on.

Irrevocable Trust: An irrevocable trust may not be changed by the trustee or the beneficiaries of the trust.

: As used in a
will, direct descendants who were born to a married couple.

Legatee: The person to whom a legacy in a will
is given.

of Administration
: The document a
probate court issues to the administrator of an estate, authorizing him or her
to act on behalf of the estate.

The formal instrument of authority and appointment given to an executor by the
property court, empowering him/her to manage, spend, distribute and sell the
assets of an estate.

: A direct
descendant. The same as “Issue.”

A trust created during the grantor”s lifetime, usually to avoid probate.

for Probate
: Court
appointment or confirmation of the personal representative (executor,
administrator, etc.).

: Another term
for executor or administrator.

: A child (or
the child of a deceased child) who is either not named or not provided for in
the will. In certain circumstances, such children may be entitled to a share of
the estate.

Probate: Court procedure by which a will is
proved to be valid or invalid.

: Entity, or
person, designated by the State to act when the decedent died intestate and
without living relatives.

real estate sale
: Means the
transfer of legal title (ownership) of real property from the estate of the
person who has died to his or her beneficiaries, or to a buyer under the
supervision of the court.

: Before real
property can be sold through probate, it must be appraised. This is done by a
probate referee. In California, probate referees are appointed by the State
Controller and assigned to a particular case by the court clerk. They are paid
for this service directly by the estate, usually a percentage of the appraised

called real estate):

Land and things permanently attached to land, such as houses.

: A trust which
can be amended or revoked by the person(s) who established the trust.

Testate: One who has made a will; one who dies
leaving a will.

Testator/Testatrix: One who has made a will.

Trust: An arrangement under which one person,
a trustee, manages property for a beneficiary.

Trustee: The person who manages assets held in

Will: A document in which a person directs
who is to inherit his or her property at death.

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