Glossary of Legal Terminology
Ancillary Probate- A probate proceeding in a state other than the state the decedent lived in at the time of death, because of ownership of a home or other property in that other state.
Beneficiary Designations- A way to name a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, IRA account, pension plan, or annuity, effective when the owner or insured person dies.
Codicil- Amendment to a will.
Conservator- A person or bank appointed by the court to manage the assets of a person unable to manage property or business affairs effectively.
Corporation- An association of persons created by statute as a legal entity, for a business or non-profit purposes.
Decedent- A deceased person.
Disposition of Remains- Directions as to what to do with a deceased person’s remains and what funeral ceremonies are desired.
Domicile- The state where one lives, pays taxes, votes, and considers home.
Estate- The assets, including real and personal property, owned by an individual.
Estate Administration- Carrying out the instructions in the estate planning documents, or in the absence of documents, establishing a plan to administer and transfer a deceased’s property to the persons or organizations entitled to it according to state and federal laws.
Estate Planning- Evaluating one’s assets and beneficiaries and preparing wills, trusts, and other documents that facilitate life’s eventualities or handle foreseen or unforeseen possibilities, according to your needs and desires.
Estate Tax- A tax on the right to inherit.
Fiduciary- Someone in a position of responsibility to another, such as a trustee, personal representative, executor, conservator or guardian.
Generation Skipping Transfer Tax- A tax on gifts of assets or money from a grandparent to a grandchild or further descendant.
Gift Tax- A tax on certain gifts made during life.
Guardian- One who legally has responsibility for the personal care and management of a person (an adult or a minor).
Inheritance Tax– A tax on property that is inherited. Colorado no longer has a state inheritance tax, but many other states do charge this tax.
Intestate- One who dies not having a will.
Joint Tenancy- A way for two or more persons to own land, a home or personal property, in which the part owned by someone who dies automatically passes to the remaining owners.
Living Will- A document which governs the withholding of life-sustaining treatment from an individual in the event of an incurable or irreversible condition that will cause death within a relatively short time, if such person is no longer able to make decisions regarding his or her medical treatment.
Medical or Financial Durable Power of Attorney- A document by which a person can designate someone to handle his or her financial matters or medical decisions should he or she become disabled and unable to manage finances or make medical decisions.
Nonprofit Corporation- A corporation of which no part of the income is distributable to its members, directors or officers. Charities are often organized as nonprofit corporations.
Partnership- A business owned by two or more persons that is not organized as a corporation.
Personal Representative (Executor)- Formerly known as an executor. Someone appointed by the court to administer and settle a decedent’s estate.
Probate- The court proceedings required for an estate administration.
S Corporation- A small business corporation with a limited number of shareholders, which under certain conditions has elected to have its taxable income taxed to its shareholders at individual income tax rates.
Sole Proprietorship- A form of business in which one person owns all the assets of the business.
Special Needs Trust- A trust for a disabled person who may need government benefits.
Tangible Personal Property- Property that has physical form and substance, that can be touched, such as furniture, vehicles, jewelry, computers, sporting goods, and art, but NOT money, investments, land or houses.
Tangible Personal Property Memorandum- List of Tangible Personal Property left to heirs, family members, friends or charities.
Tenants in Common- A way for two or more persons to own undivided interests in the same land, house or personal property, in which each owner has the right to transfer his or her interest during life or at death.
Testator (Male) or Testatrix (Female)- One who makes a will.
Trust- A legal entity created by one or more persons (“settlors” or “grantors”) for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. Trusts are usually created by signing a trust agreement.
Trustee- The person appointed or required by law to administer a trust.
Will- A legally enforceable writing disposing of property at death.