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LEGAL TERMS

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.

DISTRIBUTEE

(1) Anyone who receives something. Usually, the term refers to someone who inherits a deceased person's property. If the deceased person dies without a will (ca... (more...)
(1) Anyone who receives something. Usually, the term refers to someone who inherits a deceased person's property. If the deceased person dies without a will (called intestate), state law determines what each distributee will receive. Also called a beneficiary.

DOWER AND CURTESY

A surviving spouse's right to receive a set portion of the deceased spouse's estate -- usually one-third to one-half. Dower (not to be confused with a 'dowry') ... (more...)
A surviving spouse's right to receive a set portion of the deceased spouse's estate -- usually one-third to one-half. Dower (not to be confused with a 'dowry') refers to the portion to which a surviving wife is entitled, while curtesy refers to what a man may claim. Until recently, these amounts differed in a number of states. However, because discrimination on the basis of sex is now illegal in most cases, most states have abolished dower and curtesy and generally provide the same benefits regardless of sex -- and this amount is often known simply as the statutory share. Under certain circumstances, a living spouse may not be able to sell or convey property that is subject to the other spouse's dower and curtesy or statutory share rights.

PROBATE COURT

A specialized court or division of a state trial court that considers only cases concerning the distribution of deceased persons' estate. Called 'surrogate cour... (more...)
A specialized court or division of a state trial court that considers only cases concerning the distribution of deceased persons' estate. Called 'surrogate court' in New York and several other states, this court normally examines the authenticity of a will -- or if a person dies intestate, figures out who receives her property under state law. It then oversees a procedure to pay the deceased person's debts and to distribute her assets to the proper inheritors. See probate.

SECONDARY MEANING

In trademark law, a mark that is not inherently distinctive becomes protected after developing a 'secondary meaning': great public recognition through long use ... (more...)
In trademark law, a mark that is not inherently distinctive becomes protected after developing a 'secondary meaning': great public recognition through long use and exposure in the marketplace. For example, though first names are not generally considered inherently distinctive, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream has become so well known that it is now entitled to maximum trademark protection.

SPECIFIC BEQUEST

A specific item of property that is left to a named beneficiary under a will. If the person who made the will no longer owns the property when he dies, the bequ... (more...)
A specific item of property that is left to a named beneficiary under a will. If the person who made the will no longer owns the property when he dies, the bequest fails. In other words, the beneficiary cannot substitute a similar item in the estate. Example: If John leaves his 1954 Mercedes to Patti, and when John dies the 1954 Mercedes is long gone, Patti doesn't receive John's current car or the cash equivalent of the Mercedes. See ademption.

LIFE BENEFICIARY

A person who receives benefits, under a trust or by will, for his or her lifetime. For an example, see AB trust.

NONPROBATE

The distribution of a deceased person's property by any means other than probate. Many types of property pass free of probate, including property left to a surv... (more...)
The distribution of a deceased person's property by any means other than probate. Many types of property pass free of probate, including property left to a surviving spouse and property left outside of a will through probate-avoidance methods such as pay-on-death designations, joint tenancy ownership, living trusts and life insurance. Property that avoids probate is sometimes described as the 'nonprobate estate.' Nonprobate distribution may also occur if the deceased person leaves an invalid will. In that case, property will pass according to the particular state's laws of intestate succession.

TRUST CORPUS

Latin for 'the body' of the trust. This term refers to all the property transferred to a trust. For example, if a trust is established (funded) with $250,000, t... (more...)
Latin for 'the body' of the trust. This term refers to all the property transferred to a trust. For example, if a trust is established (funded) with $250,000, that money is the corpus. Sometimes the trust corpus is known as the 'res,' a Latin word meaning 'thing.'

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

In re Estate of Young

Stephen Parker, as administrator of the estate of Irma E. Young, deceased (the Estate), filed this petition under Probate Code section 850, subdivision (a), [1] to request an order and judgment establishing the Estate's ownership of certain real property and personal property held by ...

Estate of Kievernagel

In this case we must decide whether a widow has the right to use her late husband's frozen sperm to attempt to conceive a child where her late husband signed an agreement with the company storing the frozen sperm providing that the frozen sperm was to be discarded upon his ...

Estate of Bennett

Claimants Smith Heavy Industrial Transit Corporation and Advanced Development Holdings, Inc. (collectively Smith), appeal from a probate court order granting the motion of petitioners Lu Ella Bennett, Jack H. Bennett, Jr., and Louise Comer to set aside and rescind a ...