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LEGAL TERMS

POWER OF APPOINTMENT

The legal authority to decide who will receive someone else's property, usually property held in a trust. Most trustees can distribute the income from a trust o... (more...)
The legal authority to decide who will receive someone else's property, usually property held in a trust. Most trustees can distribute the income from a trust only according to the terms of the trust, but a trustee with a power of appointment can choose the beneficiaries, sometimes from a list of candidates specified by the grantor. For example, Karin creates a trust with power of appointment to benefit either the local art museum, symphony, library or park, depending on the trustee's assessment of need.

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 In some states, the counterclaim has been replaced by a similar legal pleading called a cross-complaint.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.

CREDIT SHELTER TRUST

See AB trust.

RESIDUARY ESTATE

The property that remains in a deceased person's estate after all specific gifts are made, and all debts, taxes, administrative fees, probate costs, and court c... (more...)
The property that remains in a deceased person's estate after all specific gifts are made, and all debts, taxes, administrative fees, probate costs, and court costs are paid. The residuary estate also includes any gifts under a will that fail or lapse. For example, Connie's will leaves her house and all its furnishings to Andrew, her VW bug to her friend Carl, and the remainder of her property (the residuary estate) to her sister Sara. She doesn't name any alternate beneficiaries. Carl dies before Connie. The VW bug becomes part of the residuary estate and passes to Sara, along with all of Connie's property other than the house and furnishings. Also called the residual estate or residue.

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.

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR

Someone appointed by a probate court to oversee probate proceedings when a person dies without a will or heirs, and his or her property is expected to pass to t... (more...)
Someone appointed by a probate court to oversee probate proceedings when a person dies without a will or heirs, and his or her property is expected to pass to the state. Some states have public administrators who are responsible for temporarily preserving the assets of an estate if there are disputes about specific provisions in the will or about who will be appointed the regular administrator.

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.

RESIDUARY BENEFICIARY

A person who receives any property by a will or trust that is not specifically left to another designated beneficiary. For example, if Antonio makes a will leav... (more...)
A person who receives any property by a will or trust that is not specifically left to another designated beneficiary. For example, if Antonio makes a will leaving his home to Edwina and the remainder of his property to Elmo, then Elmo is the residuary beneficiary.

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.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Frost Nat. Bank v. Fernandez

... The principal issue on appeal is whether the district court had jurisdiction to render summary judgment when similar bill of review proceedings and applications 497 for determination of heirship were pending in the probate court. ... 3. Probate Code. ...

In re Estate of Gaines

... The will also named Green and his wife the guardians of Gaines's children. Davis did not submit an application to probate Gaines's will for over three years after Gaines's death. ... In response, Davis submitted an application to probate Gaines's will on October 13, 2006. ...

In re Estate of Walker

... They appeal from an order of the probate court denying them relief in their complaint regarding an amended inventory filed by the independent executor of the deceased's estate. ... Beasley filed an application to probate the deceased's will on August 18, 2003. ...