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LEGAL TERMS

TESTAMENTARY TRUST

A trust created by a will, effective only upon the death of the willmaker.

STATUTORY SHARE

The portion of a deceased person's estate that a spouse is entitled to claim under state law. The statutory share is usually one-third or one-half of the deceas... (more...)
The portion of a deceased person's estate that a spouse is entitled to claim under state law. The statutory share is usually one-third or one-half of the deceased spouse's property, but in some states the exact amount of the spouse's share depends on whether or not the couple has young children and, in a few states, on how long the couple was married. In most states, if the deceased spouse left a will, the surviving spouse must choose either what the will provides or the statutory share. Sometimes the statutory share is known by its more arcane legal name, dower and curtesy, or as a forced or elective share.

GRANTOR

Someone who creates a trust. Also called a trustor or settlor.

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.'

PER CAPITA

Under a will, the most common method of determining what share of property each beneficiary gets when one of the beneficiaries dies before the willmaker, leavin... (more...)
Under a will, the most common method of determining what share of property each beneficiary gets when one of the beneficiaries dies before the willmaker, leaving children of his or her own. For example, Fred leaves his house jointly to his son Alan and his daughter Julie. But Alan dies before Fred, leaving two young children. If Fred's will states that heirs of a deceased beneficiary are to receive the property per capita, Julie and the two grandchildren will each take a third. If, on the other hand, Fred's will states that heirs of a deceased beneficiary are to receive the property per stirpes, Julie will receive one-half of the property, and Alan's two children will share his half in equal shares (through Alan by right of representation).

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.'

IN TERROREM

Latin meaning 'in fear.' This phrase is used to describe provisions in contracts or wills meant to scare a person into complying with the terms of the agreement... (more...)
Latin meaning 'in fear.' This phrase is used to describe provisions in contracts or wills meant to scare a person into complying with the terms of the agreement. For example, a will might state that an heir will forfeit her inheritance if she challenges the validity of the will. Of course, if the will is challenged and found to be invalid, then the clause itself is also invalid and the heir takes whatever she would have inherited if there were no will.

FAMILY ALLOWANCE

A certain amount of a deceased person's money to which immediate family members are entitled at the beginning of the probate process. The allowance is meant to ... (more...)
A certain amount of a deceased person's money to which immediate family members are entitled at the beginning of the probate process. The allowance is meant to help support the surviving spouse and children during the time it takes to probate the estate. The amount is determined by state law and varies greatly from state to state.

LAPSE

Under a will, the failure of a gift of property. A gift lapses when the beneficiary dies before the person who made the will, and no alternate has been named. S... (more...)
Under a will, the failure of a gift of property. A gift lapses when the beneficiary dies before the person who made the will, and no alternate has been named. Some states have anti-lapse statutes, which prevent gifts to relatives of the deceased person from lapsing unless the relative has no heirs of his or her own. A lapsed gift becomes part of the residuary estate.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

CHILLIS v. CHILLIS

... will; applying funds in keeping with Violette's wishes and interests to conserve Violette's property and benefit Violette's relatives; and maximizing entitlements to federal and state medical programs by all legitimate means through revocable/irrevocable transfers into trusts for the ...

IN RE ESTHER CAPLAN TRUST

... We adopt certain factors from the Restatement (Second) of Trusts for evaluating the exercise of the trustee's discretion. ... FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY. ¶ 2 Esther Caplan died in 1983. Her will created two trusts, each funded with one-half her residuary estate. ...

IN RE MATTER OF SOVA

... We adopt certain factors from the Restatement (Second) of Trusts for evaluating the exercise of the trustee's discretion. ... FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY. ¶2 Esther Caplan died in 1983. Her will created two trusts, each funded with one-half her residuary estate. ...