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LEGAL TERMS

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 In some states, the counterclaim has been replaced by a similar legal pleading called a cross-complaint.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.

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.

ADMINISTRATOR

A person appointed by a probate court to handle the distribution of property of someone who has died without a will, or with a will that fails to name someone t... (more...)
A person appointed by a probate court to handle the distribution of property of someone who has died without a will, or with a will that fails to name someone to carry out this task. administrator ad litem A person appointed by a probate court to represent an estate during a lawsuit. (Ad litem is Latin for 'during the litigation.') An administrator ad litem is appointed only if there is no existing executor or administrator of the estate, or if the executor or administrator has conflicting interests. For example, Jerry's will leaves most of his property to his brother, Jeff, and also names Jeff as executor of the will. But Jerry's sister, Janine, feels that Jerry made the will under improper pressure from Jeff, and brings a lawsuit to challenge it. The court appoints an administrator ad litem to represent Jerry's estate while the lawsuit is in progress. Also known as administrator ad prosequendum, meaning administrator 'during the prosecution.' administrator ad prosequendum See administrator ad litem.administrator cum testamento annexo See administrator with will annexed. administrator de bonis non (DBN) Latin for 'administrator of goods not administered.' This term refers to the person appointed by a probate court to finish probate proceedings when the executor or previous administrator can't finish the job.administrator de bonis non cum testamento annexo (DBNCTA) A baffling title for an administrator appointed by a probate court to take over probate proceedings when the named executor dies, leaving the job unfinished.administrator pendente lite Latin for 'administrator pending litigation.' This term refers to the person appointed by a court to begin probate proceedings during a lawsuit that challenges the will. The administrator pendente lite takes an inventory of the deceased person's property and handles the business affairs of the estate until the dispute is settled. Also called a special administrator.administrator with will annexed An administrator who takes the place of an executor under a will. The administrator steps in either when a will fails to nominate an executor or the named executor is unable to serve. Also called administrator cum testamento annexo or CTA, the Latin version of 'with the will annexed.'

INHERITANCE TAXES

Taxes some states impose on people or organizations who inherit property from a deceased person's estate. The taxes are based on the value of the inherited prop... (more...)
Taxes some states impose on people or organizations who inherit property from a deceased person's estate. The taxes are based on the value of the inherited property.

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.

BEQUEATH

A legal term sometimes used in wills that means 'leave' -- for example, 'I bequeath my garden tools to my brother-in-law, Buster Jenkins.'

LIVING TRUST

A trust you can set up during your life. Living trusts are an excellent way to avoid the cost and hassle of probate because the property you transfer into the t... (more...)
A trust you can set up during your life. Living trusts are an excellent way to avoid the cost and hassle of probate because the property you transfer into the trust during your life passes directly to the trust beneficiaries after you die, without court involvement. The successor trustee--the person you appoint to handle the trust after your death--simply transfers ownership to the beneficiaries you named in the trust. Living trusts are also called 'inter vivos trusts.'

RESIDUARY ESTATE

The property that remains in a deceased person's estate after all specific gifts are made, and all debts, taxes, administrative fees, probate costs, and court c... (more...)
The property that remains in a deceased person's estate after all specific gifts are made, and all debts, taxes, administrative fees, probate costs, and court costs are paid. The residuary estate also includes any gifts under a will that fail or lapse. For example, Connie's will leaves her house and all its furnishings to Andrew, her VW bug to her friend Carl, and the remainder of her property (the residuary estate) to her sister Sara. She doesn't name any alternate beneficiaries. Carl dies before Connie. The VW bug becomes part of the residuary estate and passes to Sara, along with all of Connie's property other than the house and furnishings. Also called the residual estate or residue.

BENEFICIARY

A person or organization legally entitled to receive benefits through a legal device, such as a will, trust or life insurance policy.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

In re Will of Jones

... Because we believe genuine issues of material fact remain as to the question of undue influence, we reverse the Court of Appeals, which, in a divided opinion, affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to Mrs. Jones and its order for the will to be accepted for probate. ...

In re Will of Baitschora

... On 22 June 2007, decedent died in propounder's home. Propounder attempted to probate the will on 25 June 2007, but when Ms. Weithe informed propounder that the firm could not handle the matter until August 2007, propounder sought other counsel. ...

IN RE MATTER OF ESTATE OF FORTNER

... UNPUBLISHED OPINION. THIGPEN, Judge. Respondents, the administrators of the Estate of Johnnie H. Fortner, Sr. ("the Estate"), appeal from an order awarding attorney's fees to petitioner's attorney for "his services in opposing the probate of a paper writing.". ...