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LEGAL TERMS

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.

INTESTATE

The condition of dying without a valid will. The probate court appoints an administrator to distribute the deceased person's property according to state law.

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.

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.

PROVING A WILL

Convincing a probate court that a document is truly the deceased person's will. Usually this is a simple formality that the executor or administrator easily sat... (more...)
Convincing a probate court that a document is truly the deceased person's will. Usually this is a simple formality that the executor or administrator easily satisfies by showing that the will was signed and dated by the deceased person in front of two or more witnesses. When the will is holographic -- that is, completely handwritten by the deceased and not witnessed, it is still valid in many states if the executor can produce relatives and friends to testify that the handwriting is that of the deceased.

ENDOWMENT INSURANCE

Provides that an insured person who lives for the specified endowment period receives the face value of the insurance policy--that is, the amount paid at death.... (more...)
Provides that an insured person who lives for the specified endowment period receives the face value of the insurance policy--that is, the amount paid at death. If the policy-holder dies sooner, the beneficiary named in the policy receives the proceeds.

NET ESTATE

The value of all property owned at death less liabilities or debts.

BENEFICIARY

A person or organization legally entitled to receive benefits through a legal device, such as a will, trust or life insurance policy.

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.

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. ...