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Estate Law Glossary

Town Publishing Jan. 1, 2024

1. Administrator: An individual appointed by the court to manage or distribute the assets of an estate when there is no will or the will did not name an executor.

2. Bequest: A gift left to someone in a will.

3. Codicil: An amendment or addition to an existing will.

4. Decedent: The individual who has died.

5. Estate: The sum of a person’s assets, including properties, possessions, financial securities, and debts left at the time of their death.

6. Executor/Executrix: The individual named in a will to manage the estate. The feminine form is executrix, but executor is often used for both genders.

7. Grantor: The person who creates a trust.

8. Heir: A person who inherits property from a deceased person by being a close relative.

9. Intestate: The term for dying without a will. The deceased person’s assets are then distributed according to the laws of the state in which they resided.

10. Irrevocable Trust: A type of trust that can't be changed or terminated without the permission of the beneficiary.

11. Joint Tenancy: A form of ownership in which two or more people own property together. Upon the death of one joint tenant, the property automatically goes to the surviving joint tenant(s).

12. Living Trust: A legal arrangement where property is transferred into a trust while the grantor is still alive, potentially avoiding probate upon the grantor’s death.

13. Probate: The legal process of proving a will, resolving all debts, and distributing the assets of the deceased.

14. Revocable Trust: A trust that can be altered or terminated during the grantor's lifetime.

15. Testator: A person who has made a will or given a legacy.

16. Trust: A legal arrangement wherein an individual, the trustor, transfers assets into the trust to be held and managed by a trustee for the benefit of another person or persons, known as the beneficiary or beneficiaries. Trusts can be set up for a variety of purposes, such as to reduce estate tax liability, to protect property in your estate, and to establish long-term property management. Trusts can be revocable (meaning they can be changed or canceled by the trustor at any point) or irrevocable (meaning they cannot be changed or canceled once the trust is created). 

17. Trustee: An individual or organization that holds or manages assets for the benefit of someone else.

18. Will: A legal document that details how an individual’s assets will be distributed upon their death.

19. Beneficiary: A person who is eligible to receive distributions from a trust, will, or life insurance policy.

20. Gift Tax: A tax imposed on the transfer of assets during the giver's lifetime.

21. Estate Tax: A tax imposed on the transfer of a deceased person’s estate before distribution to the beneficiaries.

22. Inheritance Tax: A tax imposed on someone who inherits property or money.

23. Power of Attorney: A legal document that allows one person to act for another person in specific or all legal or financial matters.

24. Letters Testamentary: A document issued by the probate court giving the executor the power to administer the estate of the deceased.

25. Probate Court: A specialized court that deals with the property and debts of a person who has died.

26. Fiduciary: A person or institution who manages money or property for another person and who must exercise a standard care imposed by law.

27. Real Property: Land and anything permanently affixed to it, including buildings, fences, trees, and minerals permanently beneath the surface.

28. Personal Property: Anything that is not real property and can be easily moved, like furniture and cars.

29. Life Estate: A type of estate in real property that lasts for the life of a certain person, usually the grantee.

30. Per Stirpes: A Latin term often used in wills and trusts that means estate property should be divided equally among the surviving descendants in the branch of the family.

31. Per Capita: A way of dividing an estate so each beneficiary receives an equal share.

32. Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax: A tax imposed on both outright gifts and transfers in trust to or for the benefit of individuals two or more generations younger than the donor.

33. Grant Deed: A type of deed where the grantor guarantees that he or she has not sold the title to anybody else.

34. Quiet Title: A lawsuit brought in a court having jurisdiction over property disputes, to establish a party's title to real property against anyone and everyone, and thus "quiet" any challenges or claims to the title.

35. Disclaimer: The refusal to accept a gift or inheritance.

36. Tenancy in Common: A type of ownership where two or more people own property together, each with a separate and distinct share.

37. Spendthrift Provision: A provision in a trust restricting the beneficiary's access to trust principal.

38. Trustor: Another term for the person who creates a trust, also known as the grantor.

39. Uniform Probate Code (UPC): A set of laws that provide for every aspect of estate planning and probate.

40. Codicil: An addendum of any kind to a will.

41. Conservatorship: A court proceeding where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (the conservator) to care for another adult who cannot care for himself or herself (the conservatee).

42. Escheat: The reversion of property to the state in the event the owner dies without leaving a will and has no legal heirs.

43. Guardianship: A court-ordered legal relationship where a person is named to care for the property of a minor child.

44. Inter Vivos Trust: A trust that is created and takes effect during the lifetime of the grantor. Also known as a living trust.

45. Testamentary Trust: A trust created by a will, and it comes into effect only after the death of the testator.

46. Holographic Will: A will and testament that has been entirely handwritten and signed by the testator.

47. Ancillary Probate: A secondary probate proceeding that is required when the decedent owned real property in a state other than the state where they resided and where their will is being probated.

48. Charitable Remainder Trust: A trust arrangement in which a donor gives property or money to a charity but the donor continues to use the property and/or receive income from it while alive.

49. Constructive Trust: A legal concept created by the court against one who, by fraud, wrongdoing, or any other form of unfair dealing, has obtained or holds legal right to property which he should not, in equity and good conscience, hold and enjoy.

50. Durable Power of Attorney: A power of attorney that remains effective even if the grantor becomes incapacitated.