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LEGAL TERMS

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.

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.

EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT INCOME SECURITY ACT OF 1974 (ERISA)

A federal law passed to protect pension rights. ERISA: sets minimum standards for pension plans, guaranteeing that pension rights cannot be unfairly denied to o... (more...)
A federal law passed to protect pension rights. ERISA: sets minimum standards for pension plans, guaranteeing that pension rights cannot be unfairly denied to or taken from a worker provides some protection for workers in the event certain types of pension plans cannot pay the benefits to which workers are entitled, and requires that employers provide full and clear information about employees' pension rights, including the way pension benefits accumulate, how the company invests pension funds, and when and how pension benefits can be collected.

POUR-OVER WILL

A will that 'pours over' property into a trust when the will maker dies. Property left through the will must go through probate before it goes into the trust.

ADEMPTION

The failure of a bequest of property in a will. The gift fails (is 'adeemed') because the person who made the will no longer owns the property when he or she di... (more...)
The failure of a bequest of property in a will. The gift fails (is 'adeemed') because the person who made the will no longer owns the property when he or she dies. Often this happens because the property has been sold, destroyed or given away to someone other than the beneficiary named in the will. A bequest may also be adeemed when the will maker, while still living, gives the property to the intended beneficiary (called 'ademption by satisfaction'). When a bequest is adeemed, the beneficiary named in the will is out of luck; he or she doesn't get cash or a different item of property to replace the one that was described in the will. For example, Mark writes in his will, 'I leave to Rob the family vehicle,' but then trades in his car in for a jet ski. When Mark dies, Rob will receive nothing. Frustrated beneficiaries may challenge an ademption in court, especially if the property was not clearly identified in the first place.

SECONDARY MEANING

In trademark law, a mark that is not inherently distinctive becomes protected after developing a 'secondary meaning': great public recognition through long use ... (more...)
In trademark law, a mark that is not inherently distinctive becomes protected after developing a 'secondary meaning': great public recognition through long use and exposure in the marketplace. For example, though first names are not generally considered inherently distinctive, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream has become so well known that it is now entitled to maximum trademark protection.

AB TRUST

A trust that allows couples to reduce or avoid estate taxes. Each spouse puts his or her property in an AB trust. When the first spouse dies, his or her half of... (more...)
A trust that allows couples to reduce or avoid estate taxes. Each spouse puts his or her property in an AB trust. When the first spouse dies, his or her half of the property goes to the beneficiaries named in the trust -- commonly, the grown children of the couple -- with the crucial condition that the surviving spouse has the right to use the property for life and is entitled to any income it generates. The surviving spouse may even be allowed to spend principal in certain circumstances. When the surviving spouse dies, the property passes to the trust beneficiaries. It is not considered part of the second spouse's estate for estate tax purposes. Using this kind of trust keeps the second spouse's taxable estate half the size it would be if the property were left directly to the spouse. This type of trust is also known as a bypass or credit shelter trust.

REMAINDERMAN

Someone who will inherit property in the future. For instance, if someone dies and leaves his home 'to Alma for life, and then to Barry,' Barry is a remainderma... (more...)
Someone who will inherit property in the future. For instance, if someone dies and leaves his home 'to Alma for life, and then to Barry,' Barry is a remainderman because he will inherit the home in the future, after Alma dies.

SUCCESSION

The passing of property or legal rights after death. The word commonly refers to the distribution of property under a state's intestate succession laws, which d... (more...)
The passing of property or legal rights after death. The word commonly refers to the distribution of property under a state's intestate succession laws, which determine who inherits property when someone dies without a valid will. When used in connection with real estate, the word refers to the passing of property by will or inheritance, as opposed to gift, grant, or purchase.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Brantley v. Hampden Division of the Probate and Family Court Department

Two petitioners filed an amended complaint in the county court seeking relief under GL c. 211, § 3, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief, to halt the respondents' use of the protocols on the ground that they infringed the petitioners' rights of due process under the Federal ...

Davidson v. Register of Probate for Essex County

[2] Davidson failed in his petition to name as a respondent the mother of the child, who was his adversary in the underlying litigation. See SJC Rule 2:22, 422 Mass. 1302 (1996); Jordan v. Register of Probate for Hampden County, 426 Mass. 1020 (1998). ... [3] Further appellate ...

Watson v. Walker

... Lawrence Watson appeals from a judgment of a single justice of this court denying his petition for relief pursuant to GL c. 211, § 3. [2] Watson seeks relief from a decision of the Appeals Court affirming a final judgment of the Probate and Family Court. LW v. SW, 68 Mass. App. ...