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LEGAL TERMS

STATUTORY SHARE

The portion of a deceased person's estate that a spouse is entitled to claim under state law. The statutory share is usually one-third or one-half of the deceas... (more...)
The portion of a deceased person's estate that a spouse is entitled to claim under state law. The statutory share is usually one-third or one-half of the deceased spouse's property, but in some states the exact amount of the spouse's share depends on whether or not the couple has young children and, in a few states, on how long the couple was married. In most states, if the deceased spouse left a will, the surviving spouse must choose either what the will provides or the statutory share. Sometimes the statutory share is known by its more arcane legal name, dower and curtesy, or as a forced or elective share.

INVENTORY

A complete listing of all property owned by a deceased person at the time of death. The inventory is filed with the court during probate. The executor or admini... (more...)
A complete listing of all property owned by a deceased person at the time of death. The inventory is filed with the court during probate. The executor or administrator of the estate is responsible for making and filing the inventory.

TRUSTEE POWERS

The provisions in a trust document defining what the trustee may and may not do.

ENDOWMENT INSURANCE

Provides that an insured person who lives for the specified endowment period receives the face value of the insurance policy--that is, the amount paid at death.... (more...)
Provides that an insured person who lives for the specified endowment period receives the face value of the insurance policy--that is, the amount paid at death. If the policy-holder dies sooner, the beneficiary named in the policy receives the proceeds.

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.

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.

PER STIRPES

Under a will, a method of determining who inherits property when a joint beneficiary has died before the willmaker, leaving living children of his or her own. F... (more...)
Under a will, a method of determining who inherits property when a joint beneficiary has died before the willmaker, leaving living children of his or her own. For example, Fred leaves his house jointly to his son Alan and his daughter Julie. But Alan dies before Fred, leaving two young children. If Fred's will states that heirs of a deceased beneficiary are to receive the property 'per stirpes,' Julie will receive one-half of the property, and Alan's two children will share his half in equal shares (through Alan by right of representation). If, on the other hand, Fred's will states that the property is to be divided per capita, Julie and the two grandchildren will each take a third.

TAKING AGAINST THE WILL

A procedure under state law that gives a surviving spouse the right to demand a certain share (usually one-third to one-half) of the deceased spouse's property.... (more...)
A procedure under state law that gives a surviving spouse the right to demand a certain share (usually one-third to one-half) of the deceased spouse's property. The surviving spouse can take that share instead of accepting whatever he or she inherited through the deceased spouse's will. If the surviving spouse decides to take the statutory share, it's called 'taking against the will.' Dower and curtesy is another name for the same legal process.

HOLOGRAPHIC WILL

A will that is completely handwritten, dated and signed by the person making it. Holographic wills are generally not witnessed. Although it's legal in many stat... (more...)
A will that is completely handwritten, dated and signed by the person making it. Holographic wills are generally not witnessed. Although it's legal in many states, making a holographic will is never advised except as a last resort.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Tzolis v. Wolff

... Chancellor Walworth applied to a joint stock corporation — then a fairly new kind of entity — a familiar principle of the law of trusts: that a beneficiary (or "cestui que trust") could bring suit on behalf of a trust when a faithless trustee refused to do so. ...

IN THE MATTER OF DE SANCHEZ

... In 1927, two years before the Great Depression, Elizabeth Laurent de Sanchez, whose family owned a sugar plantation in Cuba, set up seven inter vivos trusts for the benefit of her six children—Emilio (two trusts in his name), Jorge, Julio, Marcelo, Maria and Gabriela. ...

Matter of Mergenhagen

... as appealed from is unanimously reversed on the law without costs, 1487 the petitions are granted in part, the termination of trust dated October 10, 1994 is vacated, respondent David M. Mergenhagen is removed as trustee from the 1991 and 1994 irrevocable trusts, he is ...