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LEGAL TERMS

SUCCESSOR TRUSTEE

The person or institution who takes over the management of trust property when the original trustee has died or become incapacitated.

ALTERNATE BENEFICIARY

A person, organization or institution that receives property through a will, trust or insurance policy when the first named beneficiary is unable or refuses to ... (more...)
A person, organization or institution that receives property through a will, trust or insurance policy when the first named beneficiary is unable or refuses to take the property. For example, in his will Jake leaves his collection of sheet music to his daughter, Mia, and names the local symphony as alternate beneficiary. When Jake dies, Mia decides that the symphony can make better use of the sheet music than she can, so she refuses (disclaims) the gift, and the manuscripts pass directly to the symphony. In insurance law, the alternate beneficiary, usually the person who receives the insurance proceeds because the initial or primary beneficiary has died, is called the secondary or contingent beneficiary.

CONSERVATOR

Someone appointed by a judge to oversee the affairs of an incapacitated person. A conservator who manages financial affairs is often called a 'conservator of th... (more...)
Someone appointed by a judge to oversee the affairs of an incapacitated person. A conservator who manages financial affairs is often called a 'conservator of the estate.' One who takes care of personal matters, such as healthcare and living arrangements, is known as a 'conservator of the person.' Sometimes, one conservator is appointed to handle all these tasks. Depending on where you live, a conservator may also be called a guardian, committee or curator.

PER STIRPES

Under a will, a method of determining who inherits property when a joint beneficiary has died before the willmaker, leaving living children of his or her own. F... (more...)
Under a will, a method of determining who inherits property when a joint beneficiary has died before the willmaker, leaving living children of his or her own. For example, Fred leaves his house jointly to his son Alan and his daughter Julie. But Alan dies before Fred, leaving two young children. If Fred's will states that heirs of a deceased beneficiary are to receive the property 'per stirpes,' Julie will receive one-half of the property, and Alan's two children will share his half in equal shares (through Alan by right of representation). If, on the other hand, Fred's will states that the property is to be divided per capita, Julie and the two grandchildren will each take a third.

COUNTERCLAIM

A defendant's court papers that seek to reverse the thrust of the lawsuit by claiming that it was the plaintiff -- not the defendant -- who committed legal wron... (more...)
A defendant's court papers that seek to reverse the thrust of the lawsuit by claiming that it was the plaintiff -- not the defendant -- who committed legal wrongs, and that as a result it is the defendant who is entitled to money damages or other relief. Usually filed as part of the defendant's answer -- which also denies plaintiff's claims -- a counterclaim is commonly but not always based on the same events that form the basis of the plaintiff's complaint. For example, a defendant in an auto accident lawsuit might file a counterclaim alleging that it was really the plaintiff who caused the accident. In some states, the counterclaim has been replaced by a similar legal pleading called a cross-complaint. In other states and in federal court, where counterclaims are still used, a defendant must file any counterclaim that stems from the same events covered by the plaintiff's complaint or forever lose the right to do so. In still other states where counterclaims are used, they are not mandatory, meaning a defendant is free to raise a claim that it was really the plaintiff who was at fault either in a counterclaim or later as part of a separate lawsuit.

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.

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.

NET ESTATE

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

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.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

In re Kostin Estate

... We find that, by statute, the trial court was obliged to honor the Totten trusts. Michigan law honors Totten trusts. MCL 487.702 provides, in relevant part: ... Michigan law also provides: Express trusts may be created for any or either of the following purposes: * * *. Fifth. ...

In re Temple Marital Trust

... But appeals from a probate court decision are on the record, not de novo. See MCL 700.1305; MCL 600.866(1); MCR 5.802(B)(1); In re Webb H. Coe Marital and Residuary Trusts, 233 Mich.App. ... In re Coe Trusts, supra; In re Baldwin Trust, supra at 396-397, 733 NW2d 419. ...

In re Mary E. Griffin Revocable Grantor Trust

... Although MCL 700.2518 does not apply to trusts, we conclude that it reflects this state's public policy that a no-contest clause in a trust agreement is unenforceable if there is probable cause for challenging the trust. ... 2 Restatement Trusts, 3d, § 29(c), pp. ...