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LEGAL TERMS

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.

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.

PRETERMITTED HEIR

A child or spouse who is not mentioned in a will and whom the court believes was accidentally overlooked by the person who made the will. For example, a child b... (more...)
A child or spouse who is not mentioned in a will and whom the court believes was accidentally overlooked by the person who made the will. For example, a child born or adopted after the will is made may be deemed a pretermitted heir. If the court determines that an heir was accidentally omitted, that heir is entitled to receive the same share of the estate as she would have if the deceased had died without a will. A pretermitted heir is sometimes called an 'omitted heir.'

HEIR AT LAW

A person entitled to inherit property under intestate succession laws.

TRUST MERGER

Under a trust, the situation that occurs when the sole trustee and the sole beneficiary are the same person or institution. Then, there's no longer the separati... (more...)
Under a trust, the situation that occurs when the sole trustee and the sole beneficiary are the same person or institution. Then, there's no longer the separation between the trustee's legal ownership of trust property from the beneficiary's interest. The trust 'merges' and ceases to exist.

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).

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.

LIFE INSURANCE

A contract in which an insurance company agrees to pay money to a designated beneficiary upon the death of the policy holder. In exchange, the policyholder pays... (more...)
A contract in which an insurance company agrees to pay money to a designated beneficiary upon the death of the policy holder. In exchange, the policyholder pays a regularly scheduled fee, known as the insurance premiums. The purpose of life insurance is to provide financial support to those who survive the policyholder, such as family members or business partners. When the policyholder dies, the insurance proceeds pass to the beneficiaries free of probate, though they are counted for federal estate tax purposes. group life insurance Life insurance available through an employer or association that covers participating employees and members under one master insurance policy. Most group life insurance policies are term insurance policies, that terminate when the member or employee reaches a certain age or leaves the organization and do not accumulate any cash surrender value. term life insurance No-frills life insurance, with neither cash surrender value nor loan value (an amount that can be used as collateral for a loan). Term life insurance provides a pre-set amount of coverage if the policyholder dies during the period of time specified in the policy. Policyholders usually have the option to renew at the end of the term for the period of years specified in the policy. Unlike whole life insurance, premiums generally increase as the insured person gets older and the risk of death increases.universal life insurance A type of whole life insurance that offers some additional features and advantages. Like whole life insurance, universal life insurance accumulates cash value through investment of the premium payments. The unique feature of universal life insurance is that it has variable premiums, benefits and payment schedules, all of which are tied to market interest rates and the performance of the investment portfolio. Also, universal life plicies normally provide you with more consumer information. For example, you are told how much of your policy payments goes for insurance company overhead expenses, reserves and policy proceed payments, and how much is retained and invested for your savings. This information isn't usually provided with whole life policies.variable life insurance A type of whole life insurance in which the amount of death benefits varies, depending on the performance of investments. The insurance company places some or all of the fixed premium payments into an investment account; some companies let the insured person decide how the money is invested. The policyholder bears the risk of investment losses, though there is a guaranteed minimum benefit payment. One benefit of variable insurance is that interest and dividend income from the investment account is not taxed until it is paid out to the policyholder.variable universal life insurance A type of whole life insurance that provides greater potential for financial gain--and brings greater risks. Like universal life insurance, variable universal life insurance offers flexible premiums, payment schedules and benefits. But variable universal life policies are riskier because the premiums are invested in stocks, rather than more predictable money market accounts and bonds. Also called universal variable life insurance.whole life insurance Life insurance that provides coverage for the entire life of the policyholder, who pays the same fixed premium throughout his or her life. The policy builds up cash reserves that may be paid out to the policyholder when he or she surrenders or partially surrenders the policy or uses the cash reserves to fund low-interest loans. The annual increase in the cash value of the policy is not taxed. If the policyholder surrenders the policy, a portion of the payment is not taxable. Also called straight life insurance or ordinary life insurance.

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.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Matthews v. Matthews

... Present: All the Justices. OPINION BY Justice S. BERNARD GOODWYN. In this case, we consider whether the circuit court erred in failing to dismiss a probate appeal when the party appealing the probate order of the clerk had also submitted a different will for probate. ...

Schilling v. Schilling

... In this appeal, we consider whether Code § 64.1-49.1, effective on July 1, 2007, applies to a writing made in 2005 but not offered for probate as a holographic will until after the maker's death in September 2008. I. BACKGROUND AND MATERIAL PROCEEDINGS BELOW. ...

Keener v. Keener

... The purpose of this Trust is to reduce or eliminate probate costs to the extent possible while maintaining complete control of my assets. ... Debra went to the clerk's office of the Circuit Court of Prince William County to ascertain whether her father's will had been offered for probate. ...