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LEGAL TERMS

SURROGATE COURT

See probate court.

CHARITABLE TRUST

Any trust designed to make a substantial gift to a charity and also achieve income and estate tax savings for the person who creates the trust (the grantor).

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.

DISINHERIT

To deliberately prevent someone from inheriting something. This is usually done by a provision in a will stating that someone who would ordinarily inherit prope... (more...)
To deliberately prevent someone from inheriting something. This is usually done by a provision in a will stating that someone who would ordinarily inherit property -- a close family member, for example -- should not receive it. In most states, you cannot completely disinherit your spouse; a surviving spouse has the right to claim a portion (usually one-third to one-half) of the deceased spouse's estate. With a few exceptions, however, you can expressly disinherit children.

PROPERTY CONTROL TRUST

Any trust that imposes limits or controls over the rights of trust beneficiaries. These trusts include (1) special needs trusts designed to assist people who ha... (more...)
Any trust that imposes limits or controls over the rights of trust beneficiaries. These trusts include (1) special needs trusts designed to assist people who have special physical, emotional or other requirements, (2) spendthrift trusts designed to prevent a beneficiary from wasting the trust principal; and (3) sprinkling trusts that allow the trustee to decide how to distribute trust income or principal among the beneficiaries.

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.

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.

DISTRIBUTEE

(1) Anyone who receives something. Usually, the term refers to someone who inherits a deceased person's property. If the deceased person dies without a will (ca... (more...)
(1) Anyone who receives something. Usually, the term refers to someone who inherits a deceased person's property. If the deceased person dies without a will (called intestate), state law determines what each distributee will receive. Also called a beneficiary.

GENERATION-SKIPPING TRUST

A trust designed to save on estate tax. The trust principal is preserved for the trust maker's grandchildren, with his or her children receiving only income fro... (more...)
A trust designed to save on estate tax. The trust principal is preserved for the trust maker's grandchildren, with his or her children receiving only income from the trust. Because the children (the middle generation) never legally own the property, it isn't subject to estate tax at their death. See generation-skipping transfer tax.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

In re Estate of Young

Stephen Parker, as administrator of the estate of Irma E. Young, deceased (the Estate), filed this petition under Probate Code section 850, subdivision (a), [1] to request an order and judgment establishing the Estate's ownership of certain real property and personal property held by ...

Estate of Kievernagel

In this case we must decide whether a widow has the right to use her late husband's frozen sperm to attempt to conceive a child where her late husband signed an agreement with the company storing the frozen sperm providing that the frozen sperm was to be discarded upon his ...

Estate of Bennett

Claimants Smith Heavy Industrial Transit Corporation and Advanced Development Holdings, Inc. (collectively Smith), appeal from a probate court order granting the motion of petitioners Lu Ella Bennett, Jack H. Bennett, Jr., and Louise Comer to set aside and rescind a ...