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LEGAL TERMS

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 The estate tax is scheduled to be repealed for one year, in 2010, but Congress will probably make the repeal (or a very high exempt amount) permanent.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.

INVENTORY

A complete listing of all property owned by a deceased person at the time of death. The inventory is filed with the court during probate. The executor or admini... (more...)
A complete listing of all property owned by a deceased person at the time of death. The inventory is filed with the court during probate. The executor or administrator of the estate is responsible for making and filing the inventory.

HOLOGRAPHIC WILL

A will that is completely handwritten, dated and signed by the person making it. Holographic wills are generally not witnessed. Although it's legal in many stat... (more...)
A will that is completely handwritten, dated and signed by the person making it. Holographic wills are generally not witnessed. Although it's legal in many states, making a holographic will is never advised except as a last resort.

REAL ESTATE AGENT

A foot soldier of the real estate business who shows houses and does most of the other nitty-gritty tasks associated with selling real estate. An agent must hav... (more...)
A foot soldier of the real estate business who shows houses and does most of the other nitty-gritty tasks associated with selling real estate. An agent must have a state license and be supervised by a real estate broker. Most agents are completely dependent upon commissions from sellers for their income, so it pays to find out which side the agent represents (buyer, seller or both) before you place too much trust in the agent's opinion.

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.

SWEARING MATCH

A case that turns on the word of one witness versus another. The outcome of a swearing match usually depends on whom the jury finds most trustworthy.

DEATH TAXES

Taxes levied at death, based on the value of property left behind. Federal death taxes are called estate taxes. Some states levy inheritance taxes on people who... (more...)
Taxes levied at death, based on the value of property left behind. Federal death taxes are called estate taxes. Some states levy inheritance taxes on people who inherit property.

FUNDING A TRUST

Transferring ownership of property to a trust.

IN TERROREM

Latin meaning 'in fear.' This phrase is used to describe provisions in contracts or wills meant to scare a person into complying with the terms of the agreement... (more...)
Latin meaning 'in fear.' This phrase is used to describe provisions in contracts or wills meant to scare a person into complying with the terms of the agreement. For example, a will might state that an heir will forfeit her inheritance if she challenges the validity of the will. Of course, if the will is challenged and found to be invalid, then the clause itself is also invalid and the heir takes whatever she would have inherited if there were no will.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Brundage v. Estate of Carambio

The facts and circumstances that bring this matter before the Court are in some ways truly unique because, merely by the happenstance of timing, the effect of the attorney's behavior, even if we were to find that it violated our ethical standards, could not have affected the outcome of ...

In re Estate of Stockdale

We conclude that, actions arising from disputed wills and related documents designed to dispose of estate assets and which rest on allegations of undue influence are most often resolved through the equitable remedies available in the Probate Part. We further conclude that, although a ...

Estate of Cordero v. Christ Hosp.

Plaintiffs, the estate and husband of Ramona Cordero, appeal from an order granting summary judgment in favor of defendant Christ Hospital on claims of fraudulent concealment of evidence and vicarious liability for the negligence of defendant Dr. Selvia G. Zaklama. Dr. Zaklama, ...

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