Glossary of Estate Planning Terms


ADMINISTRATION
The process of handling the affairs of a deceased person’s estate or a trust.

ADVANCED DIRECTIVE
A written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment, often including a living will, made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor.

BENEFICIARY
Any person or entity (like a charity) who is to receive assets or profits from an estate, a trust, an insurance policy or any instrument in which there is distribution.

BEQUEST
A gift of property made in a will or trust.

CODICIL
A supplement or addendum to a will.

DECEDENT
A person who died.

DESIGNATION OF HEALTH CARE SURROGATE
A document that allows an individual to appoint someone else to make decisions about his or her medical care if he or she is unable to communicate.

DEVISE
The act of giving property by way of a will.

DEVISEE
The recipient of property by way of a will.

ESTATE
A person’s property; often used to refer to the net worth of a deceased individual.

GUARDIANSHIP
A guardianship is a legal relationship created when a person or institution is named in a will or assigned by the court to take care of minor children or adults unable to care for themselves.

HEIR
A person who inherits something from a decedent where the decedent had no will.

LIVING TRUST
A trust can be used to hold assets during an individual’s lifetime and thereby remove those assets from probate at the individual’s death.

LIVING WILL
Written instructions that outlines specific medical instructions to be applied if you are alive but are unable to communicate your wishes for yourself.

PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE
A person or institution appointed by the probate court, or indicated in a will, to administer the decedent’s estate.

POWER OF ATTORNEY
A power of attorney is a document you can use to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf. The person you designate is called an “attorney-in-fact.” The appointment can be effective immediately or can become effective only if you are unable to make decisions on your own.

PROBATE
The process of administration of a decedent’s estate under the authority of the probate court.

REAL PROPERTY
Land, and anything permanently attached to it.

TRUST
An agreement between one person and another, naming a trustee to control the property, or some of it, for the benefit of a beneficiary. The trust agreement defines the trustee’s powers and duties.

WILL
A document that expresses an individual’s intentions and wishes regarding the distribution of assets after death.