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 In some states, the counterclaim has been replaced by a similar legal pleading called a cross-complaint.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

SUMMARY PROBATE

A relatively simple probate proceeding available for 'small estates,' as that term is defined by state law. Every state's definition is different, and many are ... (more...)
A relatively simple probate proceeding available for 'small estates,' as that term is defined by state law. Every state's definition is different, and many are complicated, but a few examples include estates worth up to $100,000 in California; New York estates where property, excluding real estate and amounts that must be set aside for surviving family members, is worth $20,000 or less; and Texas estates where the value of property doesn't exceed what is needed to pay a family allowance and certain creditors.

REAL ESTATE AGENT

A foot soldier of the real estate business who shows houses and does most of the other nitty-gritty tasks associated with selling real estate. An agent must hav... (more...)
A foot soldier of the real estate business who shows houses and does most of the other nitty-gritty tasks associated with selling real estate. An agent must have a state license and be supervised by a real estate broker. Most agents are completely dependent upon commissions from sellers for their income, so it pays to find out which side the agent represents (buyer, seller or both) before you place too much trust in the agent's opinion.

SELF-PROVING WILL

A will that is created in a way that allows a probate court to easily accept it as the true will of the person who has died. In most states, a will is self-prov... (more...)
A will that is created in a way that allows a probate court to easily accept it as the true will of the person who has died. In most states, a will is self-proving when two witnesses sign under penalty of perjury that they observed the willmaker sign it and that he told them it was his will. If no one contests the validity of the will, the probate court will accept the will without hearing the testimony of the witnesses or other evidence. To make a self-proving will in other states, the willmaker and one or more witnesses must sign an affidavit (sworn statement) before a notary public certifying that the will is genuine and that all willmaking formalities have been observed.

FUNDING A TRUST

Transferring ownership of property to a trust.

CREDIT SHELTER TRUST

See AB trust.

SUCCESSOR TRUSTEE

The person or institution who takes over the management of trust property when the original trustee has died or become incapacitated.

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.

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.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Russell v. Gaither

... On February 3, 2006, Gaither filed with the Register of Wills for Baltimore City a petition for probate based on the July 12, 2005 will, which was admitted to administrative probate. Nearly six months later, on July 26th, Marquitta ...

Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland v. PLESHAW

... In 1997, the Probate Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("probate court") appointed Pleshaw to represent Joseph Riley in an intervention proceeding and later the Riley Estate itself. ... A. Maryland Cases Confronting Misappropriation in a Probate Context. ...

Attorney Grievance v. PLESHAW

... In 1997, the Probate Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("probate court") appointed Pleshaw to represent Joseph Riley in an intervention proceeding and later the Riley Estate itself. ... A. Maryland Cases Confronting Misappropriation in a Probate Context. ...