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LEGAL TERMS

EXECUTOR

The person named in a will to handle the property of someone who has died. The executor collects the property, pays debts and taxes, and then distributes what's... (more...)
The person named in a will to handle the property of someone who has died. The executor collects the property, pays debts and taxes, and then distributes what's left, as specified in the will. The executor also handles any probate court proceedings and notifies people and organizations of the death. Also called personal representatives.

CONTINGENT BENEFICIARY

1) An alternate beneficiary named in a will, trust or other document. 2) Any person entitled to property under a will if one or more prior conditions are satisf... (more...)
1) An alternate beneficiary named in a will, trust or other document. 2) Any person entitled to property under a will if one or more prior conditions are satisfied. For example, if Fred is entitled to take property under a will only if he's married at the time of the will maker's death, Fred is a contingent beneficiary. Similarly, if Ellen is named to receive a house only in the event her mother, who has been named to live in the house, moves out of it, Ellen is a contingent beneficiary.

FAMILY ALLOWANCE

A certain amount of a deceased person's money to which immediate family members are entitled at the beginning of the probate process. The allowance is meant to ... (more...)
A certain amount of a deceased person's money to which immediate family members are entitled at the beginning of the probate process. The allowance is meant to help support the surviving spouse and children during the time it takes to probate the estate. The amount is determined by state law and varies greatly from state to state.

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR

Someone appointed by a probate court to oversee probate proceedings when a person dies without a will or heirs, and his or her property is expected to pass to t... (more...)
Someone appointed by a probate court to oversee probate proceedings when a person dies without a will or heirs, and his or her property is expected to pass to the state. Some states have public administrators who are responsible for temporarily preserving the assets of an estate if there are disputes about specific provisions in the will or about who will be appointed the regular administrator.

RULE AGAINST PERPETUITIES

An exceedingly complex legal doctrine that limits the amount of time that property can be controlled after death by a person's instructions in a will. For examp... (more...)
An exceedingly complex legal doctrine that limits the amount of time that property can be controlled after death by a person's instructions in a will. For example, a person would not be allowed to leave property to her husband for his life, then to her children for their lives, then to her grandchildren. The gift would potentially go to the grandchildren at a point too remote in time.

PROBATE COURT

A specialized court or division of a state trial court that considers only cases concerning the distribution of deceased persons' estate. Called 'surrogate cour... (more...)
A specialized court or division of a state trial court that considers only cases concerning the distribution of deceased persons' estate. Called 'surrogate court' in New York and several other states, this court normally examines the authenticity of a will -- or if a person dies intestate, figures out who receives her property under state law. It then oversees a procedure to pay the deceased person's debts and to distribute her assets to the proper inheritors. See probate.

LIFE BENEFICIARY

A person who receives benefits, under a trust or by will, for his or her lifetime. For an example, see AB trust.

GRANTOR RETAINED INCOME TRUST

Irrevocable trusts designed to save on estate tax. There are several kinds; with all of them, you keep income from trust property, or use of that property, for ... (more...)
Irrevocable trusts designed to save on estate tax. There are several kinds; with all of them, you keep income from trust property, or use of that property, for a period of years. When the trust ends, the property goes to the final beneficiaries you've named. These trusts are for people who have enough wealth to feel comfortable giving away a substantial hunk of property. They come in three flavors: Grantor-Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs), Grantor-Retained Unitrusts (GRUTs) and Grantor-Retained Income Trusts (GRITs).

SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR

(1) In the law of wills and estates, a person appointed by the court to take charge of only a designated portion of an estate during probate. For example, a spe... (more...)
(1) In the law of wills and estates, a person appointed by the court to take charge of only a designated portion of an estate during probate. For example, a special administrator with particular expertise on art might be appointed to oversee the probate of a wealthy person's art collection, but not the entire estate. (2) A person appointed to be responsible for a deceased person's property for a limited time or during an emergency, such as a challenge to the will or to the qualifications of the named executor. In such cases, the special administrator's duty is to maintain and preserve the estate, not necessarily to take control of the probate process

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

In re Estate of Feinberg

This case involves a dispute among the surviving children and grandchildren of Max and Erla Feinberg regarding the validity of a trust provision. The circuit court of Cook County found the trust provision unenforceable on the basis that it is contrary to the public policy of the state ...

In re Estate of Feinberg

In re ESTATE OF Max FEINBERG, Deceased (Leila R. Taylor, as Independent Coexecutor of the Will of Max Feinberg, Deceased, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Michael B. Feinberg, Individually and as Coexecutor of the Will of Max Feinberg, Deceased; Fifth Third Bank, as Trustee under ...

In re Estate of Ellis

Grace Ellis executed a will in 1964 naming Shriners Hospitals for Children (Shriners) as beneficiary of her estate if she died without direct descendants. In 1999, she executed a new will naming James G. Bauman as sole beneficiary. Bauman was the pastor of the church of which ...