Estate Planning Terms

Revocable:  

The document or documents can be changed, altered or canceled.


Irrevocable:  

The document or documents cannot be changed, altered or canceled.


Probate: 

Probate is a legal document. Receipt of probate is the first step in the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property under a will. A probate court (surrogate court) decides the legal validity of a testator's (person's) will and grants its approval, also known as granting probate, to the executor. The probated will then becomes a legal instrument that may be enforced by the executor in the law courts if necessary.

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A probate also officially appoints the executor (or personal representative), generally named in the will, as having legal power to dispose of the testator's assets in the manner specified in the testator's will. In the probate process a will may be contested.


Heirs:

In law, an heir is a person who is entitled to receive a share of the deceased's (the person who died) property, subject to the rules of inheritance in the jurisdiction where the deceased (decedent) died or owned property at the time of death. A person does not become an heir before the death of the deceased, since the exact identity of the persons entitled to inherit is determined only then.


Executor: 

An executor is a legal term referring to a person named by the maker of a will or nominated by the testator, to carry out the directions of the will. Typically, the executor is the person responsible for offering the will for probate, although it is not required that he/she fulfill this particular role. The executor's duties also include disbursing property to the beneficiaries as designated in the will, obtaining information of potential heirs, collecting and arranging for payment of debts of the estate and approving or disapproving creditors' claims. An executor will make sure estate taxes are calculated, necessary forms are filed, and tax payments are made. They will also assist the attorney with the estate. Additionally, the executor acts as a legal conveyor who designates where the donations will be sent using the information left in bequests, whether they be sent to charity or other organizations. In most circumstances, the executor is the representative of the estate for all purposes, and has the ability to sue or be sued on behalf of the estate. The executor holds legal title to the estate property, but may not use the title or property for his/her own benefit, unless permitted by the terms of the will.


Trustee:

Trustee (or the holding of a trusteeship) is a legal term which, in its broadest sense, can refer to any person who holds property, authority, or a position of trust or responsibility for the benefit of another, also a trustee can be a person who is allowed to do certain tasks but not able to gain income.  Although the strictest sense of the term is the holder of property on behalf of a beneficiary, the more expansive sense encompasses persons who serve, for example, on the Board of Trustees for an institution that operates for the benefit of the general public. Also a person in the local government. A trust can be set up either to benefit particular persons, or for any charitable purposes (but not generally for non-charitable purposes): typical examples are a will trust for the testator's children and family, a pension trust (to confer benefits on employees and their families) and a charitable trust. In all cases, the trustee may be a person or company, whether or not they are a prospective beneficiary.