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LEGAL TERMS

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.

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.

BYPASS TRUST

A trust designed to lessen a family's overall estate tax liability. An AB trust is the most popular kind of bypass trust.

AUGMENTED ESTATE

In general terms, an augmented estate consists of property owned by both a deceased person and his or her spouse. The concept of the augmented estate is used on... (more...)
In general terms, an augmented estate consists of property owned by both a deceased person and his or her spouse. The concept of the augmented estate is used only in some states. Its value is calculated only if a surviving spouse declines whatever he or she was left by will and instead claims a share of the deceased spouse's estate. (This is called taking against the will.) The amount of this 'statutory share' or 'elective share' depends on state law.

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.

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.

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.

GRANTOR

Someone who creates a trust. Also called a trustor or settlor.

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.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF BEAUREGARD

Discussion. When a will is traced to the testator's possession or to where he had ready access to it and the original cannot be located after his death, there are three plausible explanations for the will's absence: (1) the testator destroyed it with the intent to revoke it; (2) the will ...

Equity One, Inc. v. Estate of Williams

72 Mass. App. Ct. 1108 (2008). EQUITY ONE, INC. v. ESTATE OF ALFRED WILLIAMS & others. No. 07-P-493. Appeals Court of Massachusetts. July 16, 2008. Decision Pursuant to Rule 1:28. Judgment reversed.

REAL ESTATE BAR ASSOCIATION FOR MASSACHUSETTS, INC. v. National Real Estate Information Services

William P. O'Donnell, Anthony J. Vigliotti, Robert F. Kelley, John R. Buckley, Jr., F. Sydney Smithers, IV, & Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., for Register of Deeds for Berkshire County & others. ... Matthew J. Maiona for the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers ...