Mary Anne Evans, the 19th Century English novelist that wrote under the male pen name George Eliot, once noted that “the finest language is made up of simple unimposing words.”  If only this applied to the world of estate planning and the legal profession as a whole!  Like any field of law, estate planning is full of complex terms that non-attorneys may not be familiar with or understand.  What follows are 17 common terms you will likely hear in the course of planning your estate plan.

1.  Adjusted Gross Estate – The gross of your estate minus debts, expenses, and losses

2.  Adjusted Taxable Estate – The adjusted gross of your estate minus marital and charitable deductions.

3.  Beneficiary – The individuals or organizations that are gifted trust property after the death of the trust grantor

4.  Bequest – Leaving an individual a gift of personal property via a will

5.  Codicil – An amendment or change to an active will.

6.  Domicile – State and city of an individual’s official residence

7.  Dower – This refers to a woman’s right to a certain percentage of the property  her husband owned during their marriage.

8.  Fee Simple – Having complete ownership of property with all rights to gift it to anyone upon that individual’s death.

9.  Fiduciary – This term refers to an individual that is in a position of trust, such as a trustee of a trust, an executor of a will, or an attorney-in-fact of a durable power of attorney

10.  Grantor – This term refers to the individual that created the trust.  It is sometimes referred to as the trustmaker or trustor

11.  Intestate – An individual that passes away without having a valid will

12.  Irrevocable Trust – A trust that is permanent in which trust property cannot be transferred back out of the trust

13.  Life Interest or Life Estate – A right to a piece of property that can only be utilized during that person’s lifetime

14.  Per Capita –  The trustmakers’ descendents will each receive an equal share of the trust residuary, regardless of generation.

15.  Per Stirpes – The trustmakers’ surviving descendents will each receive only what their ancestors would have received if they had survived the trustmaker

16.  Probate – The legal process where the validity of a will is decided by a court and where the will is executed under the supervision of that court

17.  Revocable Trust – A trust that can be amended, changed, or terminated during the trustmaker’s lifetime with the capability of removing a portion of the trust property from the trust

For additional reading:

Common Estate Planning Pitfalls

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