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LEGAL TERMS

INTESTATE SUCCESSION

The method by which property is distributed when a person dies without a valid will. Each state's law provides that the property be distributed to the closest s... (more...)
The method by which property is distributed when a person dies without a valid will. Each state's law provides that the property be distributed to the closest surviving relatives. In most states, the surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and next of kin inherit, in that order.

DOWER AND CURTESY

A surviving spouse's right to receive a set portion of the deceased spouse's estate -- usually one-third to one-half. Dower (not to be confused with a 'dowry') ... (more...)
A surviving spouse's right to receive a set portion of the deceased spouse's estate -- usually one-third to one-half. Dower (not to be confused with a 'dowry') refers to the portion to which a surviving wife is entitled, while curtesy refers to what a man may claim. Until recently, these amounts differed in a number of states. However, because discrimination on the basis of sex is now illegal in most cases, most states have abolished dower and curtesy and generally provide the same benefits regardless of sex -- and this amount is often known simply as the statutory share. Under certain circumstances, a living spouse may not be able to sell or convey property that is subject to the other spouse's dower and curtesy or statutory share rights.

INHERITANCE TAXES

Taxes some states impose on people or organizations who inherit property from a deceased person's estate. The taxes are based on the value of the inherited prop... (more...)
Taxes some states impose on people or organizations who inherit property from a deceased person's estate. The taxes are based on the value of the inherited property.

TRUST CORPUS

Latin for 'the body' of the trust. This term refers to all the property transferred to a trust. For example, if a trust is established (funded) with $250,000, t... (more...)
Latin for 'the body' of the trust. This term refers to all the property transferred to a trust. For example, if a trust is established (funded) with $250,000, that money is the corpus. Sometimes the trust corpus is known as the 'res,' a Latin word meaning 'thing.'

PETITION

A formal written request made to a court, asking for an order or ruling on a particular matter. For example, if you want to be appointed conservator for an elde... (more...)
A formal written request made to a court, asking for an order or ruling on a particular matter. For example, if you want to be appointed conservator for an elderly relative, you must file a petition with a court. See also complaint.

TAKING AGAINST THE WILL

A procedure under state law that gives a surviving spouse the right to demand a certain share (usually one-third to one-half) of the deceased spouse's property.... (more...)
A procedure under state law that gives a surviving spouse the right to demand a certain share (usually one-third to one-half) of the deceased spouse's property. The surviving spouse can take that share instead of accepting whatever he or she inherited through the deceased spouse's will. If the surviving spouse decides to take the statutory share, it's called 'taking against the will.' Dower and curtesy is another name for the same legal process.

QDOT TRUST

A trust used to postpone estate tax when more than the amount of the personal federal estate tax exemption is left to a non-U.S. citizen spouse by the other spo... (more...)
A trust used to postpone estate tax when more than the amount of the personal federal estate tax exemption is left to a non-U.S. citizen spouse by the other spouse. QDOT stands for qualified domestic trust.

NONPROBATE

The distribution of a deceased person's property by any means other than probate. Many types of property pass free of probate, including property left to a surv... (more...)
The distribution of a deceased person's property by any means other than probate. Many types of property pass free of probate, including property left to a surviving spouse and property left outside of a will through probate-avoidance methods such as pay-on-death designations, joint tenancy ownership, living trusts and life insurance. Property that avoids probate is sometimes described as the 'nonprobate estate.' Nonprobate distribution may also occur if the deceased person leaves an invalid will. In that case, property will pass according to the particular state's laws of intestate succession.

CURATOR

See conservator.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF BEAUREGARD

Discussion. When a will is traced to the testator's possession or to where he had ready access to it and the original cannot be located after his death, there are three plausible explanations for the will's absence: (1) the testator destroyed it with the intent to revoke it; (2) the will ...

Equity One, Inc. v. Estate of Williams

72 Mass. App. Ct. 1108 (2008). EQUITY ONE, INC. v. ESTATE OF ALFRED WILLIAMS & others. No. 07-P-493. Appeals Court of Massachusetts. July 16, 2008. Decision Pursuant to Rule 1:28. Judgment reversed.

REAL ESTATE BAR ASSOCIATION FOR MASSACHUSETTS, INC. v. National Real Estate Information Services

William P. O'Donnell, Anthony J. Vigliotti, Robert F. Kelley, John R. Buckley, Jr., F. Sydney Smithers, IV, & Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., for Register of Deeds for Berkshire County & others. ... Matthew J. Maiona for the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers ...