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LEGAL TERMS

LIFE INSURANCE

A contract in which an insurance company agrees to pay money to a designated beneficiary upon the death of the policy holder. In exchange, the policyholder pays... (more...)
A contract in which an insurance company agrees to pay money to a designated beneficiary upon the death of the policy holder. In exchange, the policyholder pays a regularly scheduled fee, known as the insurance premiums. The purpose of life insurance is to provide financial support to those who survive the policyholder, such as family members or business partners. When the policyholder dies, the insurance proceeds pass to the beneficiaries free of probate, though they are counted for federal estate tax purposes. group life insurance Life insurance available through an employer or association that covers participating employees and members under one master insurance policy. Most group life insurance policies are term insurance policies, that terminate when the member or employee reaches a certain age or leaves the organization and do not accumulate any cash surrender value. term life insurance No-frills life insurance, with neither cash surrender value nor loan value (an amount that can be used as collateral for a loan). Term life insurance provides a pre-set amount of coverage if the policyholder dies during the period of time specified in the policy. Policyholders usually have the option to renew at the end of the term for the period of years specified in the policy. Unlike whole life insurance, premiums generally increase as the insured person gets older and the risk of death increases.universal life insurance A type of whole life insurance that offers some additional features and advantages. Like whole life insurance, universal life insurance accumulates cash value through investment of the premium payments. The unique feature of universal life insurance is that it has variable premiums, benefits and payment schedules, all of which are tied to market interest rates and the performance of the investment portfolio. Also, universal life plicies normally provide you with more consumer information. For example, you are told how much of your policy payments goes for insurance company overhead expenses, reserves and policy proceed payments, and how much is retained and invested for your savings. This information isn't usually provided with whole life policies.variable life insurance A type of whole life insurance in which the amount of death benefits varies, depending on the performance of investments. The insurance company places some or all of the fixed premium payments into an investment account; some companies let the insured person decide how the money is invested. The policyholder bears the risk of investment losses, though there is a guaranteed minimum benefit payment. One benefit of variable insurance is that interest and dividend income from the investment account is not taxed until it is paid out to the policyholder.variable universal life insurance A type of whole life insurance that provides greater potential for financial gain--and brings greater risks. Like universal life insurance, variable universal life insurance offers flexible premiums, payment schedules and benefits. But variable universal life policies are riskier because the premiums are invested in stocks, rather than more predictable money market accounts and bonds. Also called universal variable life insurance.whole life insurance Life insurance that provides coverage for the entire life of the policyholder, who pays the same fixed premium throughout his or her life. The policy builds up cash reserves that may be paid out to the policyholder when he or she surrenders or partially surrenders the policy or uses the cash reserves to fund low-interest loans. The annual increase in the cash value of the policy is not taxed. If the policyholder surrenders the policy, a portion of the payment is not taxable. Also called straight life insurance or ordinary life insurance.

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.

CERTIFICATION OF TRUST

See abstract of trust.

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.

GENERATION-SKIPPING TRANSFER TAX

A federal tax imposed on money placed in a generation-skipping trust. Currently, there is a $1 million exemption to the GSTT; that is, each person may leave $1 ... (more...)
A federal tax imposed on money placed in a generation-skipping trust. Currently, there is a $1 million exemption to the GSTT; that is, each person may leave $1 million in a generation-skipping trust free of this tax. The GSST is imposed when the middle-generation beneficiaries die and the property is transferred to the third-generation beneficiaries. Every dollar over $1 million is subject to the highest existing estate tax rate--currently 55%--at the time the GSTT tax is applied.

PUBLISHED WORK

An original work of authorship that is considered published for purposes of copyright law. A work is 'published' when it is first made available to the public o... (more...)
An original work of authorship that is considered published for purposes of copyright law. A work is 'published' when it is first made available to the public on an unrestricted basis. It is thus possible to display a work, or distribute it with restrictions on disclosure of its contents, without actually 'publishing' it. Both published and unpublished works are entitled to copyright protection, but some of the rules differ.

ABATEMENT

A reduction. After a death, abatement occurs if the deceased person didn't leave enough property to fulfill all the bequests made in the will and meet other exp... (more...)
A reduction. After a death, abatement occurs if the deceased person didn't leave enough property to fulfill all the bequests made in the will and meet other expenses. Gifts left in the will are cut back in order to pay taxes, satisfy debts or take care of other gifts that are given priority under law or by the will itself.

SUMMARY PROBATE

A relatively simple probate proceeding available for 'small estates,' as that term is defined by state law. Every state's definition is different, and many are ... (more...)
A relatively simple probate proceeding available for 'small estates,' as that term is defined by state law. Every state's definition is different, and many are complicated, but a few examples include estates worth up to $100,000 in California; New York estates where property, excluding real estate and amounts that must be set aside for surviving family members, is worth $20,000 or less; and Texas estates where the value of property doesn't exceed what is needed to pay a family allowance and certain creditors.

IRREVOCABLE TRUST

A permanent trust. Once you create it, it cannot be revoked, amended or changed in any way.

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. ...