Estate Planning Glossary of Terms

Administrator. A court-appointed person who will manage your estate if you die without a will.

Attorney-in-fact. An individual designated in a power of attorney to act as the agent of the person who executed the document.

Beneficiary. A person who receives benefits or funds from a will, contract, or insurance policy.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. A written document in which an individual designates another person to make health care and health-related decisions in the event that the individual becomes incapacitated.

Durable Power of Attorney for Property. A written document in which an individual designates another person to make his or her property and property-related decisions in the event that the individual becomes incapacitated and is unable to do so.

Estate. An individual’s property and assets.

Estate tax. A tax that is imposed at one’s death and on the transfers of some types of property.

Executor. A person named in a will who is authorized to manage your estate when you die. The executor will collect the property, pay off any debts, and distribute your property and assets according to the terms of your will.

Fiduciary. A person or institution that is legally responsible for the management, investment, and distribution of funds.

Grantor. The person who transfers assets to another, usually into a trust.

Gross estate. The total property and assets that an individual has.

Guardian. An individual with the legal authority to care for another, usually a minor child.

Incapacity. The lack of ability to act on your own behalf. A court makes a finding of incapacity.

Inter vivos trust. A trust that is created during a person’s lifetime that holds property for the benefit of another.

Intestate. This is a term used to refer to a person who dies without a will.

Joint tenancy with right of survivorship. A title that is often placed on co-owned property. At the death of one owner, the other owner will be legally entitled to sole possession of the property, regardless of what provisions are made in a will. A husband and wife often use this form of ownership.

Living trust. A revocable trust established during a grantor’s lifetime that is used for the placement of some or all of the grantor’s property.

Living will. A binding legal document that declares what your wishes are regarding the use of life-sustaining treatment if you should become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.

Marital deduction. A federal tax deduction that allows one spouse to pass his or her estate to the other spouse without having to pay estate or gift taxes.

Power of appointment. A right given to another that allows the other to decide how to distribute your property. A “general” power of appointment places no restrictions on the other. A “limited” or “special” power of appointment places restrictions on who may receive distributions.

Power of Attorney. A written document that allows one person to act on behalf of another.

Probate. A process whereby a court reviews your will to make sure that it is authentic and allows others to make challenges to your will.

State death or inheritance taxes. Taxes that may be imposed by the state where you live or where your property is located after your death.

Trust. A written document providing that your property be held by one (the “trustee”) for the benefit of another (the “beneficiary”). A trust may be created during your lifetime or after your death.

Trustee. A person named in a trust document who will manage the property owned by the trust and distribute the trust income or property according to the terms of the trust document. A trustee may be an individual or a business.

Will. A document that directs how your property shall be distributed upon your death.

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DISCLAIMER: This publication and the information included in it are not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of appropriate legal professionals.

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