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LEGAL TERMS

IRREVOCABLE TRUST

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

GROSS ESTATE

For federal estate tax filing purposes, the total of all property owned at death, without regard to any debts or liens against the property or the costs of prob... (more...)
For federal estate tax filing purposes, the total of all property owned at death, without regard to any debts or liens against the property or the costs of probate. Taxes are due only on the value of the property the person actually owned (the net estate) plus the amount of any taxable gifts made during life. In a few states, the gross estate is used when computing attorney fees for probating estates; the lawyer gets a percentage of the gross estate.

CONTINGENT BENEFICIARY

1) An alternate beneficiary named in a will, trust or other document. 2) Any person entitled to property under a will if one or more prior conditions are satisf... (more...)
1) An alternate beneficiary named in a will, trust or other document. 2) Any person entitled to property under a will if one or more prior conditions are satisfied. For example, if Fred is entitled to take property under a will only if he's married at the time of the will maker's death, Fred is a contingent beneficiary. Similarly, if Ellen is named to receive a house only in the event her mother, who has been named to live in the house, moves out of it, Ellen is a contingent beneficiary.

WILL

A document in which you specify what is to be done with your property when you die and name your executor. You can also use your will to name a guardian for you... (more...)
A document in which you specify what is to be done with your property when you die and name your executor. You can also use your will to name a guardian for your young children.

ADMINISTRATION (OF AN ESTATE)

The court-supervised distribution of the probate estate of a deceased person. If there is a will that names an executor, that person manages the distribution. I... (more...)
The court-supervised distribution of the probate estate of a deceased person. If there is a will that names an executor, that person manages the distribution. If not, the court appoints someone, who is generally known as the administrator. In some states, the person is called the 'personal representative' in either instance.

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.'

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.

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.

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.

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 ...

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