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LEGAL TERMS

SURROGATE COURT

See probate court.

WARRANTY DEED

A seldom-used type of deed that contains express assurances about the legal validity of the title being transferred.

ENTITY

An organization, institution or being that has its own existence for legal or tax purposes. An entity is often an organization with an existence separate from i... (more...)
An organization, institution or being that has its own existence for legal or tax purposes. An entity is often an organization with an existence separate from its individual members--for example, a corporation, partnership, trust, estate or government agency. The entity is treated like a person; it can function legally, be sued, and make decisions through agents.

DOWER AND CURTESY

A surviving spouse's right to receive a set portion of the deceased spouse's estate -- usually one-third to one-half. Dower (not to be confused with a 'dowry') ... (more...)
A surviving spouse's right to receive a set portion of the deceased spouse's estate -- usually one-third to one-half. Dower (not to be confused with a 'dowry') refers to the portion to which a surviving wife is entitled, while curtesy refers to what a man may claim. Until recently, these amounts differed in a number of states. However, because discrimination on the basis of sex is now illegal in most cases, most states have abolished dower and curtesy and generally provide the same benefits regardless of sex -- and this amount is often known simply as the statutory share. Under certain circumstances, a living spouse may not be able to sell or convey property that is subject to the other spouse's dower and curtesy or statutory share rights.

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.

TESTAMENTARY TRUST

A trust created by a will, effective only upon the death of the willmaker.

FAMILY POT TRUST

See pot trust.

INTESTATE SUCCESSION

The method by which property is distributed when a person dies without a valid will. Each state's law provides that the property be distributed to the closest s... (more...)
The method by which property is distributed when a person dies without a valid will. Each state's law provides that the property be distributed to the closest surviving relatives. In most states, the surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and next of kin inherit, in that order.

INTER VIVOS TRUST

The Latin name, favored by some lawyers, for a living trust. 'Inter vivos' is Latin for 'between the living.'

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. ...