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A Glossary of Common Probate Law Terms

Posted in Probate. Tuesday, Nov 10th, 2015

The legal system is full of archaic terms and complex jargon that have developed over hundreds of years. While lawyers have the benefit of going to school for years to become familiar with these terms, most people dealing with the probate system have not had the same luxury. Consequently, it can be confusing to be thrown into dealing with the probate system, especially while trying to cope with the loss of a loved one. The following provides an explanation of some of the more common terms that may be unfamiliar to people.

Abatement—The process by which gifts to family and friends in a will are reduced in order to pay claims that creditors are making against the estate.

Administrator—A person appointed by the court who is responsible for managing a person’s estate.

Beneficiary—Beneficiaries appear in relation to both wills and trusts. The beneficiary of a will is a person who stands to receive some asset from the will. The beneficiary of the trust is the person who the trustee is managing the property on behalf of.

Codicil—A legally executed document that acts to modify or update an existing will.

Decedent—The person who passed on, whose estate is now the subject of the probate proceeding.

Devise—A gift made by a person in their will. It can also be used as a verb to mean the act of giving a gift via a will.

Elective Share—The right of a surviving spouse to avoid being disinherited by rejecting a will and instead taking the share that they would take if their decedent had passed without a will.

Executor—A person responsible for the management of a decedent’s estate, much like an administrator. However, executors are appointed by the decedent rather than the court.

Fiduciary—A person who stands in a special relationship of trust with another, such as a trustee or guardian.

Heir—A a person who takes a share of the decedent’s estate if the decedent passes without a will.

Holographic Will—A handwritten will executed without the usual legal formalities. While valid in some states, Ohio does not recognize this type of will.

Intestate—The state of dying without having left a will to be probated.

Pour-Over Will—A will designed to work in combination with a trust that leaves a person’s assets to the trust in the event of their death.

Settlor—The person who creates a trust by passing property to a trustee to be used for the benefit of a beneficiary.

Testator—A person who drafts a will, usually the decedent.

Trust—A legal instrument that allows a person to give property to a trustee who will manage it for the benefit of some other person.

Trustee—A person responsible for the management of a trust.

Dealing with probate conflicts can be confusing, but you do not have to handle them alone. If you are involved in a probate dispute and have questions about your rights, contact an Ohio probate litigation attorney at the Law Office of Mike Gertner today.