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LEGAL TERMS

INTESTATE

The condition of dying without a valid will. The probate court appoints an administrator to distribute the deceased person's property according to state law.

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.

IRREVOCABLE TRUST

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

CREDIT SHELTER TRUST

See AB trust.

BANKRUPTCY ESTATE

All of the property you own when you file for bankruptcy, except for most pensions and educational trusts. The trustee technically takes control of your bankrup... (more...)
All of the property you own when you file for bankruptcy, except for most pensions and educational trusts. The trustee technically takes control of your bankruptcy estate for the duration of your case.

INHERIT

To receive property from someone who has died. Traditionally, the word 'inherit' applied only when one received property from a relative who died without a will... (more...)
To receive property from someone who has died. Traditionally, the word 'inherit' applied only when one received property from a relative who died without a will. Currently, however, the word is used whenever someone receives property from the estate of a deceased person.

SPENDTHRIFT TRUST

A trust created for a beneficiary the grantor considers irresponsible about money. The trustee keeps control of the trust income, doling out money to the benefi... (more...)
A trust created for a beneficiary the grantor considers irresponsible about money. The trustee keeps control of the trust income, doling out money to the beneficiary as needed, and sometimes paying third parties (creditors, for example) on the beneficiary's behalf, bypassing the beneficiary completely. Spendthrift trusts typically contain a provision prohibiting creditors from seizing the trust fund to satisfy the beneficiary's debts. These trusts are legal in most states, even though creditors hate them.

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.

POWER OF APPOINTMENT

The legal authority to decide who will receive someone else's property, usually property held in a trust. Most trustees can distribute the income from a trust o... (more...)
The legal authority to decide who will receive someone else's property, usually property held in a trust. Most trustees can distribute the income from a trust only according to the terms of the trust, but a trustee with a power of appointment can choose the beneficiaries, sometimes from a list of candidates specified by the grantor. For example, Karin creates a trust with power of appointment to benefit either the local art museum, symphony, library or park, depending on the trustee's assessment of need.

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 ...