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LEGAL TERMS

GRANT DEED

A deed containing an implied promise that the person transfering the property actually owns the title and that it is not encumbered in any way, except as descri... (more...)
A deed containing an implied promise that the person transfering the property actually owns the title and that it is not encumbered in any way, except as described in the deed. This is the most commonly used type of deed. Compare quitclaim deed.

GROSS ESTATE

For federal estate tax filing purposes, the total of all property owned at death, without regard to any debts or liens against the property or the costs of prob... (more...)
For federal estate tax filing purposes, the total of all property owned at death, without regard to any debts or liens against the property or the costs of probate. Taxes are due only on the value of the property the person actually owned (the net estate) plus the amount of any taxable gifts made during life. In a few states, the gross estate is used when computing attorney fees for probating estates; the lawyer gets a percentage of the gross estate.

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).

ADMINISTRATION (OF AN ESTATE)

The court-supervised distribution of the probate estate of a deceased person. If there is a will that names an executor, that person manages the distribution. I... (more...)
The court-supervised distribution of the probate estate of a deceased person. If there is a will that names an executor, that person manages the distribution. If not, the court appoints someone, who is generally known as the administrator. In some states, the person is called the 'personal representative' in either instance.

PETITION

A formal written request made to a court, asking for an order or ruling on a particular matter. For example, if you want to be appointed conservator for an elde... (more...)
A formal written request made to a court, asking for an order or ruling on a particular matter. For example, if you want to be appointed conservator for an elderly relative, you must file a petition with a court. See also complaint.

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.

FAILURE OF ISSUE

A situation in which a person dies without children who could have inherited her property.

EXECUTOR

The person named in a will to handle the property of someone who has died. The executor collects the property, pays debts and taxes, and then distributes what's... (more...)
The person named in a will to handle the property of someone who has died. The executor collects the property, pays debts and taxes, and then distributes what's left, as specified in the will. The executor also handles any probate court proceedings and notifies people and organizations of the death. Also called personal representatives.

ADEMPTION

The failure of a bequest of property in a will. The gift fails (is 'adeemed') because the person who made the will no longer owns the property when he or she di... (more...)
The failure of a bequest of property in a will. The gift fails (is 'adeemed') because the person who made the will no longer owns the property when he or she dies. Often this happens because the property has been sold, destroyed or given away to someone other than the beneficiary named in the will. A bequest may also be adeemed when the will maker, while still living, gives the property to the intended beneficiary (called 'ademption by satisfaction'). When a bequest is adeemed, the beneficiary named in the will is out of luck; he or she doesn't get cash or a different item of property to replace the one that was described in the will. For example, Mark writes in his will, 'I leave to Rob the family vehicle,' but then trades in his car in for a jet ski. When Mark dies, Rob will receive nothing. Frustrated beneficiaries may challenge an ademption in court, especially if the property was not clearly identified in the first place.