Legal Dictionary for Probate and Estate Planning

Definitions of Terms


A situation in which a testator leaves more assets to his or her heirs than are available from the estate.

Abstract of Trust

A trust that leaves out important information that is needed to distribute the necessary funds.


A record of all transactions during an executor or agent's management of an estate. The court or any beneficiaries may request an account at any given time.


A court-appointed representative that is responsible for managing and distributing a decedent's estate if a formal executor was not named or was unavailable to serve in that capacity.

Ancillary Probate

If a decedent owns property in more than one state, the transfer of property outside of the decedent's state of resident is known as ancillary probate.


A person who was appointed to make decisions on behalf of another according to a power-of-attorney.


An individual who has been designated to receive a certain amount of income or property from another person. Beneficiaries can be named in a will, trust, life insurance, retirement plan, or other estate planning documents.


Entitling a certain amount of assets or property to an individual or entity.


If there is more than one executor of an estate, they are referred to as co-executors.

Community Property

Assets that are shared between a married couple.

Conditional Bequest

An inheritance that requires a specific action or event to take place before it is distributed to the beneficiary.


A court-appointed individual who provides management and assistance for a disabled person.


The assets or property contained in a trust.


A person who has passed away.


Date of death.

Domiciliary Estate

If a person has property in more than one state, a domiciliary estate is the estate that is transferred in decedent's home state.


The event in which an individual is threatened or forced to sign a document against his or her will. A document that was signed or created under duress will be invalidated.


The entirety of the assets and liabilities owned by a decedent. Administration of the estate must be handled by an executor, administrator, or trustee according to the laws of the state.

Estate Plan

A plan that distributes property after an individual death. Individuals usually attempt to maximize the decedent's assets by considering tax, investments, insurance and estate law.

Estate Tax

A tax that is collected on a decedent's estate.


A person who manages property or exercises authority for another person or entity. Administrators, attorney-in facts, conservators, executors, and guardians are all fiduciaries.

Fiduciary Bond

A fiduciary's written statement promising to faithfully attend to his or her duties to manage property or exercise proper care over the individual that granted the respective authority.


Fair market value.

Gift Taxes

Any federal or state taxes that are collected from a donor that bequeaths assets or property to an entity that is not a charity.


An individual who creates a trust.


A court-appointed individual who manages the affairs and cares for a minor or an incapacitated person. A guardian can be in charge of a person's property or person, or they may be appointed to care for both.


A person who is entitled to receive property by his or her relationship to the decedent when there is no estate plan available.

Inheritance Tax

A tax on property and assets that are given to beneficiaries from a decedent's estate.


The situation in which a person dies with no will or other estate plan.

Latent Ambiguity

An item on a will that has an insufficient or incorrect description.


A gift of personal property.


A person who is under the age of eighteen. In some cases, a minor is a person under 21 years of age.


The individual who is closest in blood relation.

No Contest Clause

A provision that states a person who challenges a will's validity will be exempt from his or her inheritance.

Personal Property

Any property that is not land, including tangible and intangible property.


Payable on death.


1) property in a trust that includes gains and reinvestment or 2) a person who was appointed to make decisions on behalf of another by a power-of-attorney Real Property

Any land and improvements that have been made upon the land.


The assets contained in a trusts, also known as a corpus or principal

Residuary Estate

Any property that is left over after all has been distributed to the proper persons and institutions.

Separate Property

Any property that was acquired before an individual's marriage.

Successor Trustee

An individual that assumes responsibility after the appointed trustee cannot fulfill his or her duties.


The creator of a will.


A document that establishes property ownership.


Transfer on death.


The individual a trust appoints to manage the trust's assets and property. A trustee has a duty to protect the assets and distribute them as the trust directs.


Creator of a trust.

Undue Influence

A person in authority who manipulates a testator or trustor to provide him or her with favorable influence is known to be causing undue influence.


A person who is placed in care of a guardian or conservator according to the court's order.


A person who is present for a document's signing.