• common probate terms

Understanding the Definition of Common Probate Terms

There are many common probate terms used in California probate matters. Common probate terms and confusing legal words are often found on legal forms and used by the Judge during court hearings. We have compiled a list of such terms for you to familiarize yourself with through the probate process.

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Contact us if you need help with preparing probate documents. A People’s Choice provides affordable probate legal document preparation services to California residents. Read on to learn more about common probate words and terms used in California courts.

Probate Terms Used in California Probate and Their Definitions

  1. Administrator – One of the most commonly used probate terms found in probate paperwork. The probate administrator is a court-appointed person to represent the estate. The probate administrator is responsible to probate the decedent’s estate in the event the will does not name an executor. Close family members may petition the court to be probated as an administrator if there is no will or the named executor cannot act.
  2. Beneficiary – A beneficiary is a person or business entity that has been named in a last will and testament or trust to receive all or part of the decedent’s estate assets.
  3. Codicil – A codicil is a written supplement to the will. The codicil may add, change or delete a clause or section of an existing will.
  4. Estate – The estate pertains to all of the property and possessions of the deceased.
  5. Executor – The executor is the person named in the will to handle the settlement of a decedent’s estate. The executor must carry out the specific instructions regarding the payment of creditors, taxes, and the distribution of assets to beneficiaries and heirs.
  6. Fiduciary – The executor or court-appointed administrator has a legal duty and responsibility to the decedent’s estate to carry out its obligations to beneficiaries. In this capacity, they are considered a fiduciary. Being a fiduciary includes the duty of loyalty and duty of care.
  7. Order of Probate – An order of probate is when the court approves that a will is valid and permits the executor to distribute the decedent’s assets according to the terms of the will. Alternatively, if there is no will, an order of probate allows the appointed administrator to proceed to distribute the decedent’s assets per the laws of intestate succession.
  8. Heir – An heir is a person who inherits under the laws of intestate succession when there is no will. Heir and beneficiary are common probate terms used interchangeably, although they refer to different ways people inherit the property of a decedent.
  9. Holographic Will – A holographic will is a handwritten will by the testator. These types of wills are typically not witnessed.
  10. Inheritance – Inheritance refers to property which passes to beneficiaries and heirs by the deceased according to a decedent’s will,  California’s probate code or intestate succession laws.
  11. Intestate Succession – Intestate succession laws determine the order of who inherits the decedent’s property when a person dies without a will.
  12. Letters of Administration – The court clerk issues Letters after a court enters an Order of Probate. Letters confirm the right of an administrator to represent the probate estate.
  13. Testator – A testator is the creator of a valid will.
  14. Trust – A trust is a legal instrument that avoids probate and creates a fiduciary relationship in which the trustee holds assets to be gifted to named beneficiaries.
  15. Trustee – A trustee is a person who holds the property for the benefit of the beneficiary.
  16. Will – A will is a legal declaration of a person’s intent about how his/her estate should be distributed.

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By |2018-09-03T10:21:36+00:00August 4th, 2018|Probate|0 Comments

About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.

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