Wills and Trusts:

Glossary of Terms

Administrator: A person appointed by the court to supervise the distribution of property when some dies. Also known as the executor or personal representative.

Beneficiary: A person receiving benefits from a trust or will.

Community Property: All property, debts and assets acquired during the marriage. This property is equally owned by the wife and husband. Only observed in certain states including California, Louisiana, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, Idaho and Washington.

Debt Clause: This directs the executor to pay all debts as soon as possible.

Descendent: Children, grandchildren or great-grand children.

Estate: The property owned and debts owed by the person no longer living.

Executor: The person appointed in the will to manage the estate, pay debts, deal with the probate court, collect assets and distribute the estate. This person basically becomes a personal representative.

Guardian: An adult assigned to care for a minor child and control the child’s property.

Heir: Anyone designated to obtain something of value from the estate of the deceased.

Intestate: A probate proceeding that takes place when the deceased did not prepare a will or the will cannot be found.

Joint Tenancy: Property ownership by two or more people where if one owner dies, their interest passes on to the other owners.

Personal Property: Any movable property including jewelry, furniture and cars.

Personal Representative: The individual appointed to supervise the will’s distribution. Also known as the executor.

Principal Heir: The individual who is to receive the bulk of the estate. 

Probate: A legal proceeding in which the court determines how to divide an estate.

Real Property: Land and anything underneath or attached to it, including homes, buildings, minerals and water.

Self-Proving Affidavit: A form added to the will in which the will maker and witnesses say, under oath, that they have signed and witnessed the will.

Separate Property: Everything a husband and wife own separately.

Special Directive: A special instruction in the will.

Testate: A court proceeding that takes place when the deceased prepared a will.

Will: An abbreviated form of Last Will and Testament.

Witness: An individual who watches when the will is signed.