Here are a few terms that are used in estate planning. I hope these help clarify some of the legal jargon often used, but if you would like to know more, then please call and schedule a complimentary consultation.
Terms related to a Last Will and Testament:
Last Will and Testament – A document that directs a probate court how to distribute any property in an estate of a deceased person. The Will has no effect while the creator is alive. It only gets power once a probate court approves it and authorizes a personal representative.
Testator/Tesatrix – This is the person who created the Will. This term applies while they are alive and after they pass away. (The “tor” or “trix” suffix applies to the masculine or feminine, respectively.)
Executor/Executrix/Personal Representative – This is the person nominated in the Will to be in charge of the probate process. The Executor has the responsibility of paying creditors, finding and managing property, and ulitmately distribution to the persons named as devisees/legatees of the estate.
Devisee – A person named in a Will that will inherit real property like land or minerals.
Legatee – A person named in a Will that will inherit personal property like cash, stock, cars, or household goods.
Heir-at-law - A person that is related to the testator. The heirs are the people most closely related at the time of death according to state law. For more information, see the Intestate definitions below.
Terms related to Intestate administration
Intestate – This is when a person dies with property, but without a will. Basically the State writes the deceased’s plan for him by setting priorities for an administrator and heirs-at-law.
Administrator – The person who is in charge of the intestate estate. The Administrator has the responsibility of paying creditors, finding and managing property, and ulitmately distribution to the persons named as heirs of the estate. The priority is spouse first, followed by children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, children of siblings, all the way to creditors.
Heirs-at-law – The people who will inherit from the intestate estate. The spouse is considered first, then children. If no children, then parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and many other relations. If no kin can be found, then property goes to the State.