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Welcome to Michael E. “Mick” Fox, P.C. Glossary

Our Glossary has been developed to give you quick access to definitions of terms and concepts used in the Texas Trust and Will Market. It is fully cross-referenced and many terms have links to other websites that give additional information.

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Ancillary Administration - Is the administration of an estate's assets, in another state.   An "ancillary administrator" is chosen by the executor or administrator of an estate to handle the property (primarily real estate) of the deceased's estate in a state other than the one in which the estate is probated. Example: John Dunn dies in Montana where he had been living and leaves a parcel of land in downtown Dallas, Texas.  There must be ancillary administration in Texas to obtain Texas court approval and tax agency clearance.  Technically, ancillary means "aiding" or "subordinate." Return to Top ˆ

Administrator - The person appointed by the court to handle the estate of someone who died without a will, with a will but no nominated executor, or the executor named in the will has died, has been removed from the case or does not desire to serve.   If there is a will but no available executor, the administrator is called an "administrator with will annexed." The procedure is that if an estate must be probated (filed and approved by a court) then someone (usually a relative or close friend) petitions the court in the appropriate county (usually where the late lamented last lived) for appointment of a particular person as administrator.   If an estate requires attention and no one has come forward to administer the estate, then the county Public Administrator may do so.  In most cases state law requires that the administrator post a bond ordered by the court to protect the estate from mishandling or malfeasance.   If the will includes real property in another state then the administrator or executor must find someone in the other state to handle the change of title and paying of local taxes, and that person is called an "ancillary administrator."

Adopted Children - Any person, whether an adult or a minor, who is legally adopted as the child of another in a court proceeding. Return to Top ˆ

Adoption - The taking of a child into one's family, creating a parent to child relationship, and giving him or her all the rights and privileges of one's own child, including the right to inherit as if the child were the adopter's natural child.

Advance Directive - A legal document that allows you to set out written wishes for your medical care and to name a person to make sure those wishes are carried out. Return to Top ˆ

Allocation of Income from Trusts – The trust sets the time the recipient begins to draw interest beyond the need for personal maintenance reduction.

Allocation of Principal from Trusts – The trust sets the time or times for distribution of principal based on trustor direction. Return to Top ˆ

Annuity - 1) an annual sum paid from a policy or gift. 2) short for a purchased annuity policy which will pay dividends to the owner regularly for years or for life.

Appraisement - To professionally evaluate the value of property, such as real estate, jewelry, antique furniture, or securities; typically done in order to determine the value of assets for insurance coverage, divide partnership or beneficiary assets, set a house sales price, determine taxes, or make insurance claims. Return to Top ˆ

Asset Protection – Is the concept of and strategies for guarding one's wealth.  Asset protection is a type of planning intended to protect one's assets from creditor claims.  Individuals and business entities use asset protection techniques to limit creditors' access to certain valuable assets, while operating within the bounds of debtor-creditor law.

Attorney - 1) an agent or someone authorized to act for another. 2) a person who has been qualified by a state or federal court to provide legal services, including appearing in court. Return to Top ˆ

Attorney’s Fee - the payment for legal services. It can take several forms 1) hourly charge, 2) flat fee for the performance of a particular service 3) contingent fee (such as one-third of the gross recovery, and nothing if there is no recovery), 4) statutory fees (such as percentages of an estate for representing the estate), 5) court-approved fees (such as in bankruptcy or guardianships), 6) some mixture of hourly and contingent fee or other combination. It is wise (and often mandatory) for the attorney and the client to have a signed contract for any extensive legal work, particularly in contingent fee cases.  Most attorneys keep records of time spent on cases to justify fees (and keep track of when actions were taken), even when the work is not on an hourly basis.  A "retainer" is a down payment on fees, often required by the attorney in order to make sure he or she is not left holding the bag for work performed, or at least as a good faith indication that the client is serious and can afford the services.
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Beneficiary - The person(s) or organization(s) who receive(s) the benefits of trust property held under the terms of a trust.

Bequests - the gift of personal property under the terms of a will. Bequests are not always outright, but may be "conditional" upon the happening or non-happening of an event (such as marriage), or "executory" in which the gift is contingent upon a future event. Bequest can be of specific assets or of the "residue" (what is left after specific gifts have been made).
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Burial - is the process by which a body is returned to the earth to decompose naturally in soil.

Burial Expenses – Are the expenses that are accrued after a person dies.  These expenses can include funeral home costs, memorial ceremony expenses, cemetery costs, and transportation fees.  In some cases, burial expenses can include pre-death expenses, such as burial insurance or burial funds as well.
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Burial Instructions – Although arrangements may not have been completely made, this allows parties to elect burial or cremation and state any other desires.

Capacity - The legal ability to enter into a binding contract.  Those who lack the capacity to contract include minors (with limited exceptions) and individuals who are so mentally impaired that they cannot understand the terms of the contract.  If an individual who lacks the capacity to contract enters an agreement, that person may under most circumstances back out later.
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Charitable Organizations - A nonprofit organization created and operated for purposes that benefit the public interest, such as educational, scientific, religious and artistic purposes. Charitable organizations that meet the requirements of Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) are exempt from federal income tax and are eligible to receive tax deductible charitable contributions.

Charitable Trusts - A trust designed to make a substantial gift to a charity and also achieve income and estate tax savings for the person who creates the trust (the grantor).  These trusts are usually set up during the grantor's lifetime and are irrevocable.
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Children - A person's offspring of any age, which can include biological offspring, unborn children, adopted children, stepchildren, foster children, and children born outside of marriage.

Claims – Usually made by creditors or potential heirs.
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Class Gift – These are gifts to a certain group, such as grandchildren.

Closing of Estate – This is the winding up of a deceased estate after probate or small estate closing and all assets are distributed and all accounts are closed.
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Codicils - A written change or amendment to a will.

Community Estate – Is the common ownership of property, both real and personal, by a husband and wife.
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Community Property - Property and profits received by a husband and wife during the marriage, with the exception of inheritances, specific gifts to one of the spouses, and property and profits clearly traceable to property owned before marriage, all of which is separate property. Community property is a concept which began in Spain to protect rich women from losing everything to profligate husbands, and is only officially recognized in some states which were once under or influenced by Spanish or Mexican control, including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Idaho, Washington and Louisiana.  Community property recognizes the equal contribution of both parties to the marriage even though one or the other may earn more income through employment.  By agreement or action the married couple can turn (transmute) separate property into community property, including by commingling community and separate funds in one account.  Community property is recognized based on fact or agreement of the parties, rather than holding of title.  The state courts have wavered on what constitutes proof of community property, including the issue of whether joint tenancy is evidence of community property or not.  Upon divorce community property is divided equally without regard to fault. Upon the death of one spouse all the community property goes to the other except in Texas surviving children get one half
Conservator - A person appointed to be legally responsible for the management of property and money belonging to a minor or incompetent person. The conservator may act as the guardian or the guardian may be a separate person and the conservator will just work with the guardian.
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Conservatorship- A court controlled program where a conservator is appointed by the court to manage the monetary affairs of a person(s) who is unable to manage his/her own affairs.

Court - 1) the judge, as in "The court rules in favor of the plaintiff." 2) Any official tribunal (court) presided over by a judge or judges in which legal issues and claims are heard and determined. In the United States there are essentially two systems: federal courts and state courts.
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Court Appointment – The court can appoint a guardian, guardian ad litem or a conservator to act in the best interest of a person who can’t act on their own behalf.

Creditors - A person or institution to which money is owed.
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Cremation - Is the use of high-temperature burning, vaporization, and oxidation to reduce dead animal or human bodies, to basic chemical compounds, such as gases and mineral fragments retaining the appearance of dry bone.  Cremation may serve as a funeral or post-funeral rite that is an alternative to the interment of an intact dead body in a coffin or casket.  Cremated remains, which do not constitute a health risk, may be buried or interred in memorial sites or cemeteries, or they may be legally retained by relatives and dispersed in various ways.  Cremation is not an alternative to a funeral, but rather an alternative to burial or other forms of disposal.

Crummey Withdrawals –
Is normally used for children’s education and all of it must be withdrawn by a certain age.
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Custodian - A term used by the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) and Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) for the person named to manage property left or given to a child under the terms of either of those Acts.  The custodian manages the property until the child reaches the age specified by state law -- 21, in most states.  Then the child receives the property outright, and the custodian has no further role in its management.

Custodian of Wills –
This is the person who has physical possession of the original documents.
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Custodianships –
This is normally the duties of managing assets of a minor child until that child reaches the age of majority.

Cy Pres Doctrine -
A doctrine used to give a gift to a similar beneficiary when the true beneficiary no longer exists or is not available.  The cy pres doctrine is most often used with charitable gifts when the charity named in an estate planning document no longer exists.  In that case, the trustee or court may use the cy pres doctrine to give the gift to a similar charity to match the donor's intention as closely as possible.

Death -
is the permanent cessation of all biological functions that sustain a particular living organism.
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Debts -
1) An amount owed by one person or entity to another. 2) A cause of action in a lawsuit to recover a set amount owed by another person or entity. 3) The total of everything a person or entity owes to all creditors.

- The person who has died.
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Decedents Estate -
Is a formal way of referring to property left when a person dies.  The "decedent" is the person who has died, and their "estate" is the property they owned at the time of death.

Deed/Deeds -
The written document which transfers title (ownership) or an interest in real property to another person. The deed must describe the real property, name the party transferring the property (grantor), the party receiving the property (grantee) and be signed by the grantor, who must then acknowledge before a notary public that he/she/it executed the deed.  To complete the transfer (conveyance) the deed must be recorded in the office of the County Recorder or Recorder of Deeds.  There are two basic types of deeds: a warranty deed, which guarantees that the grantor owns title, and the quitclaim deed, which transfers only that interest in the real property which the grantor actually has.  The quitclaim is often used among family members or from one joint owner to the other when there is little question about existing ownership, or just to clear the title.  This is not to be confused with a deed of trust, which is a form of mortgage. 2) v. to transfer title by a written deed.
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Dependent Administration -
Is required to seek the Court’s approval for most of the transactions that the administrator may need to enter as part of the probate process.

Deposit of Will with Clerk -
The court’s acceptance of a will for safekeeping does not insure the validity of any provision contained in the will, nor does it enhance the force or effect of the will.

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Descent -
The rules of inheritance established by law in cases in which there is no will naming the persons to receive the possessions of a person who has died.  The rules of descent vary somewhat from state to state and will usually be governed by the law of the state in which the deceased party lived.  Depending on which relatives survive, the estate may go all or in part to the surviving spouse, and down the line from a parent to children (or if none survive, to grandchildren), or up to surviving parents, or collaterally to brothers and sisters.  If there are no survivors among those relatives, then aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews may inherit, depending on their degree of kinship (closeness of family relationship), state laws of descent and distribution, or whether the deceased person lived in a community property state, in which the wife has a survivorship right to community property.

Designation of Guardian -
Allows you to nominate a person to act as guardian of the person of your minor child / children.  A guardian of the person is an individual who is legally responsible for the personal affairs, health and well-being of a minor.  The guardian of the person will have the authority to make decisions on behalf of your minor children when you are unable to do so.
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Devisee -
A person or entity who inherits real estate under the terms of a will.

Directive to Physician -
A legal document in which you state your wishes about the types of medical care you do or do not want if you are unable to speak for yourself.  This document may go by many other names, including health care directive, advance directive, declaration, or directive to physicians.
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Directives -
An advance health care directive, also known as living will, personal directive, advance directive, or advance decision, is a set of written instructions that a person gives that specify what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity.  The instruction appoints someone, usually called an agent, to make such decisions on their behalf.  A living will is one form of advance directive, leaving instructions for treatment.  Another form authorizes a specific type of power of attorney or health care proxy, where someone is appointed by the individual to make decisions on their behalf when they are incapacitated.  People may also have a combination of both.  People are often encouraged to complete both documents to provide comprehensive guidance regarding their care.

Distribute -
The dividing up of those assets of an estate or trust when someone has died according to the terms of the deceased's will or trust, or in absence of a will, according to the laws of descent and distribution.
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Distributee -
Someone who receives something, usually, the term refers to someone who inherits property from a deceased person (a distribution from the deceased person's estate) or receives distributions from a trust.  Also called a beneficiary.

Distribution -
Transferring at least some assets of an estate or trust to beneficiaries or paying out profits or assets of a corporation or other business to its owners.
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Do-not-Resuscitate Order -
In medicine, a "do not resuscitate" or "DNR", sometimes called a "No Code", is a legal order written either in the hospital or on a legal form to respect the wishes of a patient not to undergo CPR or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) if their heart were to stop or they were to stop breathing.  The term "code" is commonly used by medical professionals as a slang term for "calling in a Code Blue" to alert a hospital's resuscitation team.  The DNR request is usually made by the patient or health care power of attorney and allows the medical teams taking care of them to respect their wishes.  Some criticize the term "do not resuscitate" because it sounds as if something important is being withheld, while research shows that only about 5% of patients who require ACLS outside the hospital and only 15% of patients who require ACLS while in the hospital survive.

Durable Power of Attorney
– Is a document established by an individual (the principal) granting another person (the agent), the right and authority to handle the financial and other affairs of the principal. The Durable Power of Attorney survives through the period of incompetency of the principal.
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Economic Contribution -
The statute usually applies to real estate situations (although the statute says "property" and thus could conceivably include an auto or other asset). There must be either

  • a debt for purchase money or capital improvements, secured by a lien, which is reduced during marriage,
  • or capital improvements during marriage.

Elder Law –
Is an area of law that addresses the legal needs of elderly people, including retirement benefits, estate planning, health care, and other issues.
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Escheat -
The forfeit of all property to the state when a person dies without heirs, descendants, or named beneficiaries.

- The aggregate of all assets and debts held (owned) by an individual during his or her life or at the time of his or her death.
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Estate Lawyer -
An estate lawyer is an attorney who, through years of mentoring, continuing legal education and experience, understands how to advise Personal Representatives/Executors and estate beneficiaries on settling all of the affairs of a deceased person.

Estate Planning -
The art of continuing to prosper when you're alive, and passing your property to your loved ones with a minimum of fuss and expense after you die. Planning your estate may involve making gifts, buying insurance, and creating a will, living trust, health care directives, durable power of attorney for finances, or other documents.
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Estate Planning Attorney -
An estate planning attorney is an attorney who, through years of mentoring, continuing legal education and experience, understands how to advise clients on getting their affairs in order to prepare for the possibility of mental disability and eventual death.

Estate Taxes -
A tax imposed by the federal government, and by some states, on property transferred during life or at someone's death; it is officially called the unified gift and estate tax.  All property, however owned and whether or not it goes through probate court before being given to inheritors, is subject to estate tax.  In practice, however, less than 1% of estates actually owe federal estate tax.  That's because for deaths in 2011 or 2012, the first $5 million of property is exempt from the tax, and you can give away or leave an unlimited amount tax-free to a surviving spouse or charity.  Spouses can combine their exemptions to leave a total of $10 million without owing any estate tax.
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Executor -
The person appointed to administer the estate of a person who has died leaving a will, which nominates that person.  Unless there is a valid objection, the judge will appoint the person named in the will to be executor.  The executor must insure that the person's desires expressed in the will are carried out.  Practical responsibilities include gathering up and protecting the assets of the estate, obtaining information in regard to all beneficiaries named in the will and any other potential heirs, collecting and arranging for payment of debts of the estate, approving or disapproving creditor's claims, making sure estate taxes are calculated, forms filed and tax payments made, and in all ways assisting the attorney for the estate (which the executor can select).

Express Trust -
Express trusts allow for the automatic passing of title to property upon the death of the person who set up the trust, also known as the “settlor”.   The trust is frequently utilized in conjunction with a will which directs that any property not already contained in the trust be placed into the trust upon the settlor’s death.  Express trusts are not appropriate for every estate plan; therefore, a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney will ensure that your specific needs and interests are fulfilled by creating an estate plan which is tailored to your particular requirements.
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Family Allowance -
A certain amount of a deceased person's money to which immediate family members are entitled at the beginning of the probate process.  The allowance is meant to help support the surviving spouse and children during the time it takes to probate the estate.  The amount is determined by state law and varies greatly from state to state.

- A person with the legal duty to, act primarily for another's benefit in a position of trust, good faith, candor and responsibility. "Fiduciary" is often used as an alternative term for "trustee".
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Final Accounting -
The final accounting of an estate going through probate in Texas requires that the executor or administrator submit documentation to the court at the conclusion of the process to close the estate.  Probate is the procedure in proving a decedent's last will and testament.  The final accounting requires careful record-keeping of estate-related matters, including appraisals, sales amounts, legal and professional fees, taxes, any expenses incurred and bills paid.

Final Settlement -
An agreement reached by the parties to a lawsuit, usually in writing or read into the record in court, settling all issues.  Usually there are elements of compromise, waiver of any right to reopen or appeal the matter even if there is information found later which would change matters (such as recurrence of a problem with an injury), mutual release of any further claim by each party, a statement that neither side is admitting fault, and some action or payment by one or both sides.  In short, the case is over, provided the parties do what they are supposed to do according to the final settlement's terms.
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Foreign Will -
any Will executed by a decedent while domiciled in a jurisdiction other than the state of Texas.

Funeral Expenses -
Funeral homes, cemeteries and other service providers expect to receive payment in full at the time of the funeral. With the average cost of a funeral in the U.S. exceeding $8,000, it can be a hardship if you have not planned ahead for this expenditure. There are several ways to manage your funeral expenses and spare loved ones the financial burden

Funeral Instructions -
The purpose of this document is to leave instructions regarding your desires for your final arrangements.  Memorial ceremonies are for those who survive the death, and this should be taken into consideration when pre-planning.  Those who make plans ahead of time relieve their families of having to make crucial decisions under the influence of grief.  It is best to talk about these arrangements with your family so they are aware of what you want them to do when the time comes.  This is also the time to talk about the kind of music you want and whether flowers or charitable donations are preferred.
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Future Interest –
Is a right to receive property sometime in the future, either on a particular date or upon the occurrence of an event.  For example, John's will leaves his house to his sister Marian, but only after the death of his wife, Hillary.  Marian has a future interest in the house.

- A transfer of property without receiving some benefit in return. The person making the transfer cannot be obligated in any way to make the transfer.
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Gift Tax –
Is a federal tax on large gifts.  Gifts to members of a family may be up to $10,000 a year to each plus an additional $30,000 accumulation of gifts is allowed tax-free.  Several states also impose gift taxes.  As with all tax questions, professional assistance in gift tax planning, is vital.

Grandchildren -
a child of one's son or daughter.
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- Also known as "Settlor" and "Trustor", is/are the person who establishes the trust.  Married couples are often Co-Trustors. While living and competent, the Trustor(s) is/are the only individual(s) who may alter, amend or revoke their trust. After all Trustors have passed the language may no longer be amended and assets are distributed by the Successor Trustees according to the rules of the trust.

- A person designated by court appointment and given the responsibility of managing the personal affairs of a minor child or a person that is legally incompetent to manage his or her own affairs.
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Guardian Ad Litem –
A person appointed by the court only to take legal action on behalf of a minor or an adult not able to handle his/her own affairs.  Duties may include filing a lawsuit for an injured child, defending a lawsuit or filing a claim against an estate.  Usually a parent will file a petition to be appointed the guardian ad litem of a child hurt in an accident at the same time the lawsuit is filed.

Guardianship -
A legal relationship created by a court between a guardian and a ward--either a minor child or an incapacitated adult (although the latter relationship is more commonly called a conservatorship).  The guardian has a legal right and duty to care for the ward. This may involve making personal decisions on the ward's behalf, managing the ward's property, or both.
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Heir –
Is the one who acquires property upon the death of another, based on the rules of descent and distribution, namely, being the child, descendant or other closest relative, of the dear departed.  It also has come to mean anyone who "takes" (receives something) by the terms of the will.  An heir cannot be determined until the moment of death of the person leaving the property, since a supposed beneficiary (heir apparent) might die first.  A presumptive heir is someone who would receive benefits unless a child was later born to the current owner of the property the presumptive heir hopes to get someday.  A legally adopted child gains the chance to be an heir upon adoption as if he/she were the natural child of the adoptive parent or parents and is called an adoptive heir.  A collateral heir is a relative who is not a direct descendant, but a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin, nephew, niece or a parent.  It is noteworthy that a spouse is not an heir unless specifically mentioned in the will.  He/She may, however, receive an inheritance through marital property or community property laws.  A child not mentioned in a will can claim to be a pretermitted heir, i.e. inadvertently or accidentally omitted from the will, and can claim he/she would (should) have received as an heir.

Heirship -
The condition of being an heir.  Right to inheritance; heir Dom.
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Heirship Proceeding -
The Proceeding to Determine Heirship occurs when a person who owned property dies without a will and there is no administration of his or her estate.

Acronym that stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a US law designed to provide privacy standards to protect patients' medical records and other health information provided to health plans, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.
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Homestead -
The house and lot of a homeowner which the head of the household (usually either spouse) can declare in writing to be the principal dwelling of the family, record that declaration of homestead with the County Recorder or Recorder of Deeds and thereby exempt part of its value (based on state statutes) from judgment creditors.  A similar exemption is available in bankruptcy without filing a declaration of homestead. 2) v. jargon for filing a declaration of homestead, as in "he homesteaded the property."

In REM Proceeding –
Is Latin for "against or about a thing," referring to a lawsuit or other legal action directed toward property, rather than toward a particular person.  Thus, if title to property is the issue, the action is "in rem”.  The term is important since the location of the property determines which court has jurisdiction, and enforcement of a judgment must be upon the property and does not follow a person.
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- A person who is legally incapable of managing his or her own business affairs. A person may be permanently or temporarily incapacitated. A probate court usually decides if a person is incapacitated or not. "Incapacitated" is often used interchangeably with "incompetent."

Incapacitated Person -
An incapacitated person is an individual for whom a guardianship proceeding is initiated.  S/he has been determined by court as lacking the capacity to manage at least some of the property or to meet at least some of the essential health and safety requirements.  An incapacitated person may not be able to make or communicate responsible personal decisions.  S/he exhibits an inability to meet his/her own personal needs for medical care, nutrition, clothing, shelter, or safety.  If a person cannot make decisions on any of the issues a general guardian will be appointed.  If the person has disability only in limited areas, then a limited guardian is sufficient.  A minor may not come under the definition of incapacitated person under certain statutes and is treated separately.
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Incapacitated Spouse -
when a husband or wife is judicially declared to be incapacitated:
(1) the other spouse, in the capacity of surviving partner of the marital partnership, acquires full power to manage, control, and dispose of the entire community estate as community administrator, including the part of the community estate that the incapacitated spouse legally has the power to manage in the absence of the incapacity, without an administration; and
(2) if the incapacitated spouse owns separate property, the court shall appoint the other spouse or another person or entity, in the order of precedence established under Section 677 of this code, TEX PB. CODE ANN. § 883 : Texas Statutes - Section 883: INCAPACITATED SPOUSE, as guardian of the estate to administer only the separate property of the incapacitated spouse.

Income from Trusts -
Personal trusts fall into two major categories: revocable and irrevocable.  Revocable trusts are under the full control of the grantor, or trust owner.  Because of this, all income earned within a revocable trust is considered part of the grantor's taxable income for the year and are included in her 1040 filing.  Irrevocable trusts are completely separate from their grantors.  These trusts file separate tax returns on Form 1041.
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Independent Administration -
Texas Probate Code - Section 145. Independent Administration: Independent administration of an estate may be created as provided in Subsections (b) through (e) of this section.  Any person capable of making a will may provide in his will that no other action shall be had in the county court in relation to the settlement of his estate than the probating and recording of his will, and the return of an inventory, appraisement, and list of claims of his estate.  See full code for more information.

Independent Executor -
Is a trustee who is not related to the beneficiary of the trust and does not stand to inherit any property under the trust. Independent trustees are preferred when family members are likely to disagree over management of the trust. However, independent trustee's fees are usually higher than those charged by a family member.
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Individual Retirement Account (IRA) -
A retirement plan established by an individual that allows annual contributions of income and provides some tax advantages.

Inherit -
To receive all or a portion of the estate of an ancestor upon his/her death, usually from a parent or other close relative pursuant to the laws of descent.  Technically, one would "inherit" only if there is no will, but popularly it means any taking from the estate of a relative, including a wife or husband, by will or not.
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Inheritance -
Whatever one receives upon the death of a relative due to the laws of descent and distribution, when there is no will.  However, inheritance has come to mean anything received from the estate of a person who has died, whether by the laws of descent or as a beneficiary of a will or trust.

Inheritance Tax -
A tax some states impose on people or organizations who inherit property from a deceased person.  The tax rate depends on the inheritor's relationship to the deceased person; typically, spouses or children pay no tax, but less closely related inheritors do pay inheritance tax.
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Insurance -
A contract (insurance policy) in which the insurer (insurance company) agrees for a fee (insurance premiums) to pay the insured party all or a portion of any loss suffered by accident or death.  The losses covered by the policy may include property damage or loss from accident, fire, theft or intentional harm; medical costs and/or lost earnings due to physical injury; long-term or permanent loss of physical capacity; claims by others due to the insured's alleged negligence (e.g. public liability auto insurance); loss of a ship and/or cargo; finding a defect in title to real property; dishonest employees; or the loss of someone's life.  Life insurance may be on the life of a spouse, a child, one of several business partners or an especially important manager ("key man" insurance), all of which is intended to provide for survivors or to ease the burden created by the loss of a financial contributor. 
So-called "mortgage" insurance is life insurance which will pay off the remaining amount due on a home loan on the death of the husband or wife.  Life insurance proceeds are usually not included in the probate of a dead person's estate, but the funds may be counted by the Internal Revenue Service in calculating estate tax.  Insurance companies may refuse to pay a claim by a third party against an insured, but at the same time may be required to assume the legal defense (pay attorney's fees or provide an attorney) under the doctrine of "reservation of rights."
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Inter Vivos Transfer -
Latin for "among the living," usually referring to the transfer of property by agreement between living persons and not by a gift through a will. It can also refer to a trust (inter vivos trust) which commences during the lifetime of the person (Trustor or settlor) creating the trust as distinguished from a trust created by a will (testamentary trust), which comes into existence upon the death of the writer of the will.

- To die without a will or other valid estate transfer devise. The order of persons entitled to received property distributed by a state court when the deceased failed to write a will or trust, or the will or trust has failed to legally distribute the deceased person's property.

  • If there is a surviving spouse and no lineal descendants (children or grandchildren), then the surviving spouse acquires all of the estate.
  • If there is a surviving spouse and lineal descendants of both the surviving spouse and the decedent, then the surviving spouse receives the first $20,000 of the estate, plus one-half of the rest of the estate and the lineal descendants share the remaining half.
  • If there is a surviving spouse and lineal descendants (one or more of which are not lineal descendants of the surviving spouse), then the surviving spouse receives one-half of the estate and the lineal descendants share the remaining half.
  • If there is no surviving spouse, but lineal descendants, then the lineal descendants share the estate.
  • If there is no surviving spouse and no lineal descendants, then the estate goes to the decedent's surviving parents, and if none, then to the decedent's brothers or sisters or descendants of the decedent's brothers or sisters.

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Intestate Succession -
The distribution when a person dies without leaving a valid will and the spouse and heirs will take (receive the possessions) by the laws of descent and distribution and marital rights in the estate which may apply to a surviving spouse.  Collectively these are called the laws of intestate succession.

Inventory -
In probate, a complete listing of all property owned by a deceased person at the time of death.  The inventory is filed with the court during probate.  The personal representative (executor or administrator) of the estate is responsible for filing the inventory.
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Joint Account -
Referring to property, rights or obligations which are united, undivided and shared by two or more persons or entities.  Thus, a joint property held by both cannot be effectively transferred unless all owners join in the transaction.  If a creditor sues to collect a joint debt, he/she must include all the debtors in the lawsuit, unless the debt is specifically "joint and several," meaning any one of the debtors may be individually liable.  Therefore, care must be taken in drafting deeds, sales agreements, promissory notes, joint venture agreements and other documents.  A joint tenancy is treated specially, since it includes the right of the survivor to get the entire property when the other dies (right of survivorship).

Joint Tenancy
- When two or more people take title to the same property and simultaneously each owns 100% of the property, or has full rights to the property. At the death of one joint tenant, his or her share immediately transfers to the ownership of the survivor(s).

Joint Tenants -
Two or more people to share ownership of real estate or other property.  In almost all states, the co-owners (called joint tenants) must own equal shares of the property.  When one joint tenant dies, the other owners automatically own the deceased owner's share.  For example, if spouses own a house as joint tenants and one dies, the survivor automatically becomes full owner.  Because of this right of survivorship, the property goes directly to the surviving joint tenants without the delay and costs of probate.
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Last Will and Testament
– Is a legal document stating the intentions of a deceased person concerning the distribution of his or her property and the management of his or her affairs following his or her death.  State law dictates the legality of a will.

Law -
Any system of regulations to govern the conduct of the people of a community, society or nation, in response to the need for regularity, consistency and justice based upon collective human experience.
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Letters -
Shorthand for letters testamentary or letters of administration.

Life Estate –
A person’s right to have all of the benefit from a property during one's lifetime. The person with the right doesn't own the property, and when he or she dies, the property is not included in his or her estate.

Life Insurance -
A contract in which an insurance company agrees to pay money to a designated beneficiary upon the death of the policyholder.  In exchange, the policyholder pays a regularly scheduled fee, known as the insurance premiums.  The purpose of life insurance is to provide financial support to those who survive the policyholder, such as family members or business partners.  When the policyholder dies, the insurance proceeds pass to the beneficiaries free of probate, though they are counted for federal estate tax purposes.  There are many types of life insurance, including: term life insurance, whole life insurance, and universal life insurance.
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List of Claims -
The inventory, appraisement and list of claims is a fundamental part of any estate procedure. The inventory is a source of important information. It will on occasion identify the property under search, furnish information as to necessity or advisability of sale and the information to determine whether or not there is a likelihood of state inheritance and federal estate tax.

Living Trust -
Sometimes called an inter vivos (Latin for "within one's life") trust, a trust created by a declaration of trust executed by the trustor or trustors (also called settlor or settlors) during his/her/their lifetime, as distinguished from a "testamentary trust," which is created by a will and only comes into force upon the death of the person who wrote the will.  A living trust should not be confused with a "living will," which provides for medical care decisions when a person is terminally ill.  While a living trust is a generic name for any trust which comes into existence during the lifetime of the person or persons creating the trust, most commonly it is a trust in which the trustor(s) or settlor(s) receive benefit(s) from the profits of the trust during their lifetimes, followed by a distribution upon the death of the last trustor (settlor) to die, or the trust continues on for the benefit of others (such as the next generation) with profits distributed to them.  There are other types of living trusts including irrevocable trust, insurance trust, charitable remainder trust and some specialized trusts to manage some parts of the assets of a person or persons.

Living Will
– Is a legal document defining your "right to die."  It usually states that you do not want to have your life artificially prolonged by modern medical technologies. You can specifically define the means which you do not want used or do want used.
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Marital Agreement -
Many couples choose to make agreements with their spouse – most often about who owns what property.  While prenuptial agreements are the most well-known marital agreements, couples can also make agreements during their marriage and when getting divorced.

Marital Property -
Property that is considered under state law to be owned by both spouses. In community property states, all income earned and property acquired during marriage is marital (community) property.  In other states, whether property is considered marital property depends on how it is titled and sometimes, other factors.  Most states exclude inheritances from marital property.
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Medical Power of Attorney -
Giving a medical power of attorney is very important if we cannot take care of ourselves.  Giving another person a medical power of attorney allows him to act in our best interest when a medical emergency occurs and we cannot make important medical decisions for ourselves.

Medical Power of Attorney for Minors -
Protecting the health of your child is a full time responsibility.  Unfortunately, if you are like some parents, your job keeps you away from your child for what can be a longer period of time than you desire.  For example, if you are called to active service in the military, your time away from your beloved child is extensive on some occasions.  A medical power of attorney for minor is a helpful resource in ensuring that your child's health care needs appropriately are addressed, even if you are not around.

Medical Treatment -
management and care of a patient or the combating of disease or disorder.
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Mental Capacity -
sufficient understanding and memory to comprehend in a general way the situation in which one finds oneself and the nature, purpose, and consequence of any act or transaction into which one proposes to enter.  The degree of understanding and memory the law requires to uphold the validity of or to charge one with responsibility for a particular act or transaction.

Mental Health -
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act as we cope with life.  It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.  Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.  Mental illnesses are serious disorders which can affect your thinking, mood, and behavior.  There are many causes of mental disorders.  Your genes and family history may play a role.  Your life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, may also matter.  Biological factors can also be part of the cause.  Mental disorders are common, but treatments are available.

Minors -
Someone under legal age, which is generally 18, except for certain purposes such as drinking alcoholic beverages.
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Multi Party Account -
A multiple party account is an account held in any sort of financial intermediary, such as a bank, thrift, or brokerage firm.  The account is registered in the names of more than one person.  Multiple party accounts are considered a type of will substitute because they are functionally equivalent to a will, but the assets are transferred to the beneficiary within the donee’s lifetime.

Muniment of Title -
Documentary evidence of title to real property.  A Muniment could be a deed, a decree of distribution proving inheritance, or a contract of sale.
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Net Estate
- The value of an estate upon which the federal estate tax is levied. The net taxable estate or "net value" is the total or "gross value" of the estate less liabilities, expenses and other deductions allowed by the tax laws.
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Orders -
A decision issued by a court. It can be a simple command--for example, ordering a recalcitrant witness to answer a proper question--or it can be a complicated and reasoned decision made after a hearing, directing that a party either do or refrain from some act.  For example, following a hearing, the court may order that evidence gathered by the police not be introduced at trial; or a judge may issue a temporary restraining order.  This term usually does not describe the final decision in a case, which most often is called a judgment.

Organ Donation -
Making a gift of your body can be done by several methods: a bequest of particular organs for transplantation, donation of all organs and tissues, or the donation of the entire body to a medical school.  Alternative disposition preferences should also be made if the donation cannot be completed for any reason.
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Payable on Death Account -
A way to avoid probate for bank accounts, government bonds, securities, individual retirement accounts, and, in some states, real estate or cars.  To create a pay-on-death designation, you simply name someone on the ownership document (such as the registration card for a bank account) to inherit the property at your death.  You retain complete control of your property while you are alive, and you can change the beneficiary (payee) at any time.  At your death, the property is transferred directly to the beneficiary, free of probate.

Per Capita
- A method of distributing an estate such that all of the surviving descendants share equally in the property.  Also known as, “Pro Rata”.

Per Stirpese
- The most common way of distributing an estate such that if one of the children is dead, his or her children share equally in his or her share. Also known as, “By Right of Representation”.
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Personal Property -
All property other than land and buildings attached to land.  Cars, bank accounts, wages, securities, a small business, furniture, insurance policies, jewelry, patents, pets, and season baseball tickets are all examples of personal property.  Personal property may also be called personal effects, movable property, goods and chattel, and personalty.

Personal Representative -
Same as an executor / executrix named in a will to manage a decedent's estate.

Pour Over Will
- A will which contains a clause that transfers some or all of the assets that pass through the will into a trust for final distribution from the trust. The will's assets are said to "pour over" into the trust.
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Powers of Attorney
- Power of Attorneys make medical and financial decisions in case of incapacitation.  HIPAA forms are often now needed with the Power of Attorney documents to allow an incapacitated person’s medical records to be released to the Power of Attorney. If a living trust is properly funded, there are little or no financial assets to be managed by the Power of Attorney - instead assets are managed by the Successor Trustee.

Predeceased Devisee -
Unless the will indicates a contrary intent, if a devisee predeceases the testator, whether before or after the execution of the will, and if the devisee is a grandparent of or a descendant of a grandparent of the testator, then the issue of the predeceased devisee shall take in place of the deceased devisee.  The devisee's issue shall take the deceased devisee's share in the same manner that the issue would take as heirs of the deceased devisee under the intestacy provisions in effect at the time of the testator's death.  The provisions of this section apply whether the devise is to an individual, to a class, or is a residuary devise.  In the case of the class devise, the issue shall take whatever share the deceased devisee would have taken had the devisee survived the testator; in the event the deceased class member leaves no issue, the devisee's share shall devolve upon the members of the class who survived the testator and the issue of any deceased members taking by substitution.
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Premarital Agreement -
An agreement made by a couple before marriage that controls certain aspects of their relationship, usually the management and ownership of property, and sometimes whether alimony will be paid if the couple later divorces.  Courts usually honor premarital agreements unless one person shows that the agreement was likely to promote divorce, was written with the intention of divorcing, or was entered into unfairly.  A prenuptial agreement may also be known as a premarital agreement, ante nuptial agreement, or simply a "prenup," for short.

Presumption -
A rule of law which permits a court to assume a fact is true until such time as there is a preponderance (greater weight) of evidence which disproves or outweighs (rebuts) the presumption.  Each presumption is based upon a particular set of apparent facts paired with established laws, logic, reasoning or individual rights.  A presumption is rebuttable in that it can be refuted by factual evidence.  One can present facts to persuade the judge that the presumption is not true.  Examples: a child born of a husband and wife living together is presumed to be the natural child of the husband unless there is conclusive proof it is not; a person who has disappeared and not been heard from for seven years is presumed to be dead, but the presumption could be rebutted if he/she is found alive; an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  These are sometimes called rebuttable presumptions to distinguish them from absolute, conclusive or irrebuttable presumptions in which rules of law and logic dictate that there is no possible way the presumption can be disproved.  However, if a fact is absolute it is not truly a presumption at all, but a certainty.
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Principal from Trusts -
A trust has two components, the principal and the income. The principal is all the property that’s available to produce ordinary income like dividends, interest, or rents. As you make payments, some may come from principal and some from income, depending on what you, as trustee, decide. Others, such as beneficiary payments, come only from the income.

- The legal process which facilitates the transfer of a deceased person's property whether they leave a will or don't leave any will. The court establishes the authenticity of the will (if any), appoints a personal representative or administrator, identifies heirs and creditors, directs payment of debts and taxes, and oversees distributions of the assets according to the will or state law in the absence of a will.

Probate Avoidance -
means making choices now and taking certain intelligent actions now that will prevent the necessity of a probate court having to intervene to make those choices for you later on.  Probate proceedings can be required during your lifetime should you become incompetent or upon your death to manage the affairs of your estate.  Because probate proceedings can be very expensive and involve delays on important health and financial related decisions, avoiding probate is a worthwhile objective for a great many people.
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Probate Code -
Texas Probate Law provides for a distinct set of legislation regarding all legal probate matters.  These probate laws may not coincide specifically with the Unified Probate Code, though there may be some similarities.  Texas Probate Code deals with aspects such as the probate process, making a will, and intestate succession.

Probate Court -
A specialized court or division of a state trial court that considers cases concerning the distribution of deceased persons' property and the appointment of guardians for children or adults who need care and supervision.  Called "surrogate's court" in New York and several other states, this court normally examines the authenticity of a will or, if a person dies without a will (intestate), figures out who inherits under state law.  It then oversees a procedure to pay the deceased person's debts and to distribute the assets to the proper inheritors.

Probate Proceeding -
In a probate proceeding, the court oversees the process of identifying the deceased person's property, paying any debts, identifying the proper heirs, and distributing the property to them.  Most of the actual work is done by a personal representative, who is usually a relative or friend of the deceased person, with the assistance of an attorney and often an accountant and possibly one or more appraisers.  The generic term "personal representative" has replaced such terms as executor, executrix, administrator and administratrix.
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Professional Guardian -
A guardian is one who is has been appointed by the Superior Court to act for a person whom the superior court has found to be incapacitated.  The court may appoint a guardian of the person, a guardian of the estate, or a guardian of the person and the estate, depending on the needs and capabilities of the incapacitated person. In general, a guardian is responsible for the individual’s "care, custody, and control," while considering and respecting the individual’s preferences.  Guardianship of the Person and/or Estate can be limited in any manner that the court believes to be.  In those instances, the powers of the guardian are limited to those specified in the court order and the limitations are reflected in the Letters of Guardianship issued by the Clerk of the Court.
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Qualified Domestic Trust –
This type of trust is used to postpone estate taxes when more than the amount of the personal federal estate tax exemption is left to a non-U.S. citizen spouse by the other spouse.

Quit Claim Deed
- A document (a deed) that transfers a person's interest in a piece of real estate, without the warranties or guarantees that are made in a warranty deed.
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Real Estate -
Land and things permanently attached to it, such as buildings, houses, stationary mobile homes, fences and trees.  Real estate is also called real property.  Anything that isn't real estate is personal property.

Real Property
- Land and attachments to the land, such as buildings, fences, etc.

Retirement Plan -
is a financial arrangement designed to replace employment income upon retirement. These plans may be set up by employers, insurance companies, trade unions, the government, or other institutions.
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Retirement Planning -
A secure, comfortable retirement is everyone’s dream.  And now because we're living longer, healthier lives, we can expect to spend more time in retirement than our parents and grandparents did.  Achieving the dream of a secure, comfortable retirement is much easier when you plan your finances.

Revocable Living Trust -
A trust set up during life that can be revoked at any time before death.  Revocable living trusts are a common and excellent way to avoid the cost and hassle of probate, because the property held in the trust during life passes directly to the trust beneficiaries after the trust maker's death, without probate court proceedings. The successor trustee - the person appointed to handle the trust after the trust maker's death --simply transfers ownership to the beneficiaries named in the trust. Certain revocable living trusts can also reduce federal estate tax.  Also called an "inter vivos trust".
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Revocable Trust –
Is a trust that may be altered or terminated during the grantor's lifetime.  Since the trust may be altered at any time until the grantor's death, it is considered part of the grantor's estate and is subject to taxation.  The property is passed on to the beneficiaries only after the grantor's death, and the revocable trust then becomes irrevocable.

Right of Survivorship -
The right of a surviving co-owner to take ownership of a deceased owner's share of the property.  Forms of ownership that come with a right of survivorship include joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety, and community property with right of survivorship.
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Self-Proving Affidavit -
A self-proving affidavit is a sworn statement attached to a will, signed by the will maker and his or her witnesses, that attests to the validity of the will.  It is not necessary to include a self-proving affidavit – a properly written, signed, and witnessed will is legal without it -- but including one may help make probate go more quickly.  If you write a will, it must go through probate. During probate, your executor must “prove” the validity of the will to the probate court.  Proving a will involves convincing the court that the will document really is the will of the person it purports to be.  Methods for proving a will vary, but many courts will require the witness to appear at court, either personally or by sworn statement.  If there is any trouble locating a witness, it could cause problems or delays with probate.  But if you include a self-proving affidavit with your will, it does not need to be proved to the court.  The affidavit itself proves the will.  This could speed up the probate process – something your loved ones are sure to appreciate.

Separate Property -
In community property states, property owned and controlled entirely by one spouse in a marriage.  At divorce, separate property is not divided under the state's property division laws, but is kept by the spouse who owns it.  Separate property includes all property that a spouse obtained before marriage, through inheritance, or as a gift.  It also includes any property that is traceable to separate property -- for example, cash from the sale of a vintage car owned by one spouse before marriage -- and any property that the spouses agree is separate property.
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- Also known as "Grantor" and "Trustor", is a person who establishes a trust.  Married couples are often Co-Trustors. While living and competent, the Trustor(s) is/are the only individual(s) who may alter, amend or revoke their trust. After all Trustors have passed the language may no longer be amended and assets are distributed by the Successor Trustees according to the rules of the trust.

Small Estate –
Is an estate that contains property with a value small enough to be eligible, under state law, for simplified probate procedures or out-of-court transfers of the deceased person's property.

Small Estate Administration -
If the size of your estate is less than an amount set by state law, your estate may qualify for a simplified proceeding for small estates.  These proceedings require less paperwork, cost less and take less time.  Small estate administration is an alternative to a formal probate of an estate when the assets, liens, and encumbrances of the estate are under a certain statutory amount, which varies by jurisdiction.  It is a faster, easier, and alternative to the probate process, involving less paperwork and delay.  It involves the use of a small-estate affidavit for estates ranging from $1,000 to $100,000 or even higher, depending on state law.  This approach is particularly advantageous where the bulk of the estate is in a trust and only an automobile or small bank account is in the name of the decedent at the time of death. No court administration is required.  The administration of the estate may be commenced a certain time after death, usually 30 days, and the appointment of a personal representative is made.  An inventory and appraisal must be filed with the Court.  The personal representative, after giving any required notice to creditors, may immediately disburse and distribute the estate to the entitled persons.  A verified statement to close and a full account in writing must be filed with the court and copied served on all distributees and creditors whose claims are neither paid nor barred.
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Special Needs Trust -
A trust designed to hold and disburse property for the benefit of an SSI recipient so that SSI and Medicaid won't consider the trust property or disbursements to be a resource or income.  To accomplish this purpose, the trust typically gives the trustee sole discretion over trust disbursements and bars the trustee from making disbursements that would impair the beneficiary’s eligibility for SSI and Medicaid.  In addition, the trust must be for the beneficiary’s sole benefit and bar creditors from going after trust assets.  A special needs trust funded with the beneficiary’s own property (a self-settled trust) is subject to additional restrictions.  Also called a supplemental needs trust.

Spendthrift Trust -
A trust created for a beneficiary who may be irresponsible with money.  The trustee keeps control of the trust income, doling out money to the beneficiary as needed, and sometimes paying third parties (creditors, for example) on the beneficiary's behalf, bypassing the beneficiary completely.  Spendthrift trusts typically contain a provision prohibiting creditors from seizing the trust fund to satisfy the beneficiary's debts.  These trusts are legal in most states.
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Successor Trustees
- While the Trustors are living, the Successor Trustees manage the assets of the trust if the initial trustees are no longer able to act, similar to a Financial Power of Attorney.

  • The Successor Trustees must follow the instructions of the trust for managing and distributing the estate. Many Trustors set an age which must be attained (such as 25 years of age) for a beneficiary to receive his or her portion of the trust. Successor Trustees typically have the power to distribute assets held in the trust for minors prior to the age requirement if the funds are for:
    1. Health
    2. Education
    3. Support
    4. Maintenance

Surviving Spouse -
A widow or widower.
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Survivorship -
The right to receive full title or ownership due to having survived another person. Survivorship is particularly applied to persons owning real property or other assets, such as bank accounts or stocks, in "joint tenancy”.  Joint tenancy includes the right of survivorship automatically, except that in some states joint tenancy of a bank account creates only a presumption of survivorship, which might be disproved by evidence that the joint tenancy was only for convenience.

Survivorship Agreement -
It is primarily used to avoid probate complications and expense upon the death of a co-owner.  Under a joint tenancy, title to the property interest of a deceased owner automatically transfers to the surviving co-owner, without the necessity of filing a probate action in the probate courts.
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Testamentary -
Pertaining to a will.

Testamentary Capacity -
Having the mental competency to execute a will at the time the will was signed and witnessed.  To have testamentary capacity, the author of the will must understand the nature of making a will, have a general idea of what he/she possesses and know who are members of the immediate family or other "natural objects of his/her bounty”.  Inherent in that capacity is the ability to resist the pressures or domination of any person who may try to use undue influence on the distribution of the testator's (will writer's) estate.

Testamentary Disposition -
How the terms of a will divide the testator's (will writer's) estate, including specific gifts to named beneficiaries.
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Testamentary Trust - A trust created after you pass by a Last Will and Testament. Assets in a Testamentary Trust do not avoid probate

Testate -
The circumstance of dying after making a valid will.  A person who dies with a will is said to have died testate.

Testator -
Someone who makes a will.

Texas Probate Law -
When a person dies in the state of Texas, the power to dispose of that person's property is transferred to the executor of their estate.  The executor, typically a spouse or child, must first appear before a probate judge to ascertain if the will is valid.  Entering the will into probate gives the executor legal authority to execute the deceased's will.
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Transfers of Property –
Is to move the ownership or the possession of an asset (or an interest in an asset), from one party to another.  The term encompasses all methods for disposing of an asset, including by gift, sale, release, lease, and so on.

Trespass to Try Title -
A trespass to try title action is the method of determining title to lands, tenements, or other real property in one’s estate.

- A legal document in which property is held and managed by a trustee for the benefit of another known as a beneficiary. A trust is a relationship in which property is held by one person for the benefit of another. The trust can be created verbally, but will most often be in writing.
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A/B Trust
- Married couples uses this type of living trust in which two trusts (trust A and trust B) are created when the first spouse passes. Dividing the estate allows each spouse to avoid federal estate taxes. Otherwise, the surviving spouse takes ownership of all assets and has only his/her exemption when he/she passes.

Bypass/Disclaimer Trust
- A trust that starts as one trust (an A trust) but within 9 months of the first spouse passing can be split into two trusts (an A/B or Survivor/Disclaimer) so each spouse can claim a federal estate tax exemption.

Irrevocable Trust
- A trust that cannot be changed, canceled, or "revoked" once it is set up. A "living trust" is not an example of an irrevocable trust. Insurance trusts and "Children's Trusts," or "2503 Trusts," are examples of irrevocable trusts. Irrevocable trusts are treated by the IRS very differently than revocable trusts.
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Living Trust
- A type of revocable trust used in estate planning to avoid probate, help in situations of incompetency, and allow "smooth" management of assets after the death of the trustor(s) or person who established the trust. The trust can be effective in eliminating or reducing estate taxes for married couples. Revocable Living trusts are established during the life of the trustor(s), who retains the right to the income and principal and the right to amend or revoke the trust. When the trustor(s) dies, the trust becomes irrevocable and acts as a substitute for a traditional will.

QTIP Trust
- A Qualified Terminable Interest Trust (Q-Tip) is a type of trust which provides an unlimited marital deduction for qualified property put into the trust. However, rather than permitting the surviving spouse to have full power to distribute the property to anyone he or she wishes, the trust restricts the ability of the surviving spouse to distribute the property in the trust to a select group of individuals, such as the children, as agreed when both spouses were alive. Without the new QTIP laws, any attempt to "tie down" the property and restrict the surviving spouse's rights to transfer the trust property would have resulted in the property not qualifying for the marital deduction tax benefit.

Revocable Trust
– Is a trust which can be amended or revoked by the person(s) who established the trust.
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Trust Account - An account in which a bank or trust company, an authorized custodian, holds funds for specific purposes such as to pay property taxes and/or insurance premiums associated with a property.  It’s also called an escrow account.   A savings account established under a trust agreement whereby a trustee administers the funds for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries.

Trust Administration -
The trustee's management of trust property according to the trust's terms and for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

Trust Proceeding -
In Texas, you can make a living trust to avoid probate for virtually any asset you own -- real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and so on.  You need to create a trust document, which is similar to a will, naming someone to take over as trustee after your death , called a successor trustee.  Then -- and this is crucial -- you must transfer ownership of your property to yourself as the trustee of the trust.  Once all that's done, the property will then be controlled by the terms of the trust.  At your death, your successor trustee will be able to transfer it to the trust beneficiaries without probate court proceedings.
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- Assets placed in the trust are managed by the Trustees.  The Trustees manage bank accounts, investments, the buying and selling of homes, automobiles, etc. in the trust’s name and distribute income as needed to the Trustors. Most people name themselves as both the Trustors and the Trustees.  In some instances, the Trustor may appoint someone else as a Trustee but not a Trustor.  A single person who relies on an adult child to help manage bank accounts may opt to list the child as a Co-Trustee.  The child cannot change language (such as the distribution of the estate) but can make sure the parent’s bills are paid on time.

- Also known as "Grantor" and "Settlor", is a person who establishes a trust. Married couples are often Co-Trustors. While living and competent, the Trustor(s) is/are the only individual(s) who may alter, amend or revoke their trust.  After all Trustors have passed the language may no longer be amended and assets are distributed by the Successor Trustees according to the rules of the trust.
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Uniform Transfer to Minors -
A statute, adopted by almost all states, that provides a method for transferring property to minors and arranging for an adult to manage it until the child is old enough to receive it.  It’s often called by its acronym, UTMA.
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Ward / Ward of the State -
1) A person (usually a minor) who has a guardian appointed by the court to care for and take responsibility for that person.  Such a person is a "ward of the court" (if the custody is court-ordered) or a "ward of the state."

Warranty Deed -
A deed to real property which guarantees that the seller owns clear title which can be transferred (conveyed).  A "grant deed" generally is a warranty deed, while a "quitclaim deed" is not.

- A legal document stating the intentions of a deceased person concerning the distribution of his or her property, and management of his or her affairs following his or her death. State law dictates the legality of a will.
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Will Contest –
Is a lawsuit that challenges the validity of a will and/or its terms.  Bases for contesting a will include the competency of the maker of the will (testator) at the time the will was signed, the "undue influence" of someone who used pressure to force the testator to give him/her substantial gifts in the will, the existence of another will or trust, challenging illegal terms or technical faults in the execution of the will, such as not having been validly witnessed.  A trial of the will contest must be held before the will can be probated, since if the will is invalid, it cannot be probated.

Witness -
A person who testifies under oath in a trial (or a deposition which may be used in a trial if the witness is not available) with first-hand or expert evidence useful in a lawsuit.  A party to the lawsuit (plaintiff or defendant) may be a witness. 2) n. a person who sees an event. 3) n. a person who observes the signing of a document like a will or a contract and signs as a witness on the document attesting that the document was signed in the presence of the witness. 4) v. to sign a document verifying that he/she observed the execution of the document such as a will.
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