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LEGAL TERMS

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.

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.

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.

TESTAMENTARY TRUST

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

CONSERVATOR

Someone appointed by a judge to oversee the affairs of an incapacitated person. A conservator who manages financial affairs is often called a 'conservator of th... (more...)
Someone appointed by a judge to oversee the affairs of an incapacitated person. A conservator who manages financial affairs is often called a 'conservator of the estate.' One who takes care of personal matters, such as healthcare and living arrangements, is known as a 'conservator of the person.' Sometimes, one conservator is appointed to handle all these tasks. Depending on where you live, a conservator may also be called a guardian, committee or curator.

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.

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.

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.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

In re Estate of Wyttenbach

... OPINION. OROZCO, Judge. ¶1 Appellant Barry Wyttenbach (Barry), personal representative of Emmett Wyttenbach's (Emmett) estate, appeals the probate court's grant of summary judgment to Nona Wyttenbach (Nona) and the dismissal of the complaint with prejudice. ...

Schoeneweis v. Hamner

... Ms. Schoeneweis's death certificate. C. Because It Failed to Conduct an In Camera Inspection, the Probate Court Did Not Properly Weigh Privacy Concerns Against the Policy In Favor Of Disclosure. ¶ 21 The Public Records ...

Duncan v. Progressive Preferred Ins. Co.

... We conclude that the motion to dismiss in this tort action was an impermissible collateral attack on the order appointing a special administrator in a separate probate proceeding, Maricopa County Superior Court Cause Number PB XXXX-XXXXXX. ...