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LEGAL TERMS

ADMINISTRATION (OF AN ESTATE)

The court-supervised distribution of the probate estate of a deceased person. If there is a will that names an executor, that person manages the distribution. I... (more...)
The court-supervised distribution of the probate estate of a deceased person. If there is a will that names an executor, that person manages the distribution. If not, the court appoints someone, who is generally known as the administrator. In some states, the person is called the 'personal representative' in either instance.

CERTIFIED COPY

A copy of a document issued by a court or government agency guaranteed to be a true and exact copy of the original. Many agencies and institutions require certi... (more...)
A copy of a document issued by a court or government agency guaranteed to be a true and exact copy of the original. Many agencies and institutions require certified copies of legal documents before permitting certain transactions. For example, a certified copy of a death certificate is required before a bank will release the funds in a deceased person's payable-on-death account to the person who has inherited them.

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.

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

GROSS ESTATE

For federal estate tax filing purposes, the total of all property owned at death, without regard to any debts or liens against the property or the costs of prob... (more...)
For federal estate tax filing purposes, the total of all property owned at death, without regard to any debts or liens against the property or the costs of probate. Taxes are due only on the value of the property the person actually owned (the net estate) plus the amount of any taxable gifts made during life. In a few states, the gross estate is used when computing attorney fees for probating estates; the lawyer gets a percentage of the gross estate.

ESTATE TAXES

Taxes imposed by the state or federal government on property as it passes from the dead to the living. All property you own, whatever the form of ownership, and... (more...)
Taxes imposed by the state or federal government on property as it passes from the dead to the living. All property you own, whatever the form of ownership, and whether or not it goes through probate after your death, is subject to federal estate tax. Currently, however, federal estate tax is due only if your property is worth at least $2 million when you die. The estate tax is scheduled to be repealed for one year, in 2010, but Congress will probably make the repeal (or a very high exempt amount) permanent. Any property left to a surviving spouse (if he or she is a U.S. citizen) or a tax-exempt charity is exempt from federal estate taxes. Many states now also impose their own estate taxes or inheritance taxes.

LETTERS TESTAMENTARY

The document given to an executor by the probate court, authorizing the executor to settle the estate according to either a will or the state's intestate succes... (more...)
The document given to an executor by the probate court, authorizing the executor to settle the estate according to either a will or the state's intestate succession laws.

DISCHARGE (OF PROBATE ADMINISTRATOR)

A court order releasing the administrator or executor from any further duties connected with the probate of an estate. This typically occurs when the duties hav... (more...)
A court order releasing the administrator or executor from any further duties connected with the probate of an estate. This typically occurs when the duties have been completed but may happen sooner if the executor or administrator wishes to withdraw or is dismissed.

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.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

O'CONNOR v. Redstone

... Michael). The plaintiffs are Michael and the current trustees of three trusts that once held shares in NAI for the benefit of Sumner's and Edward's children. ... individually. Edward denied that any such oral trusts had been established. [8]. ...

BINDMAN v. Parker

... Trustees of two qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs) commenced these actions in the Probate and Family Court, seeking reformation of the trusts to correct drafting errors that they claimed frustrated the settlors' intent to reduce their estate and gift tax liabilities. ...

Fierst v. Laird

... Deborah L. Anderson & Sarah T. Connolly for the plaintiffs. The trustees of three related trusts commenced this action in the county court requesting a declaration that the trusts contain certain scrivener's errors. They also request reformation of the trusts. ...