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LEGAL TERMS

INCOMPETENCE

The inability, as determined by a court, to handle one's own personal or financial affairs. A court may declare that a person is incompetent after a hearing at ... (more...)
The inability, as determined by a court, to handle one's own personal or financial affairs. A court may declare that a person is incompetent after a hearing at which the person is present and/or represented by an attorney. A finding of incompetence may lead to the appointment of a conservator to manage the person's affairs. Also known as 'incompetency.'

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 In some states, the counterclaim has been replaced by a similar legal pleading called a cross-complaint.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

EXEMPTION TRUST

A bypass trust funded with an amount no larger than the personal federal estate tax exemption in the year of death. If the trust grantor leaves property worth m... (more...)
A bypass trust funded with an amount no larger than the personal federal estate tax exemption in the year of death. If the trust grantor leaves property worth more than that amount, it usually goes to the surviving spouse. The trust property passes free from estate tax because of the personal exemption, and the rest is shielded from tax under the surviving spouse's marital deduction.

TRUST MERGER

Under a trust, the situation that occurs when the sole trustee and the sole beneficiary are the same person or institution. Then, there's no longer the separati... (more...)
Under a trust, the situation that occurs when the sole trustee and the sole beneficiary are the same person or institution. Then, there's no longer the separation between the trustee's legal ownership of trust property from the beneficiary's interest. The trust 'merges' and ceases to exist.

INHERITANCE TAXES

Taxes some states impose on people or organizations who inherit property from a deceased person's estate. The taxes are based on the value of the inherited prop... (more...)
Taxes some states impose on people or organizations who inherit property from a deceased person's estate. The taxes are based on the value of the inherited property.

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.

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.

POUR-OVER WILL

A will that 'pours over' property into a trust when the will maker dies. Property left through the will must go through probate before it goes into the trust.

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.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Step-Murphy, LLC v. B&B Brothers Real Estate Corp.

In 1986 Markatos Realtors, Inc. (hereinafter Markatos), Rutger's immediate predecessor in interest, along with Brookside Park Properties, Inc., the defendant's predecessor in interest, executed a written indenture providing, among other things, for mutual easements designating 12 ...

Colasacco v. Robert E. Lawrence Real Estate

In October 2002 the defendant Christopher DiCorato, a real estate agent employed by the defendant Robert E. Lawrence Real Estate (hereinafter Lawrence, and hereinafter together the defendants), met with the plaintiffs and showed them a parcel of vacant property that was ...

Kerusa Co. LLC v. W10Z/515 Real Estate Ltd. Partnership

In any event, plaintiff fails, as a matter of law, to demonstrate any injury for which it is entitled to hold defendant sponsors liable. Although the purchase agreement obligated defendant sponsors to provide plaintiff with a building and unit constructed "in a good and workman-like ...