Common Terms in Estate Planning, Wills and Probate

The following is a list of terms to help you navigate the language of estate planning, wills, and probate law in the state of Ohio

The people involved –

Beneficiary – An individual who receives benefits granted to him by another.

Creditor – A person to whom a debt is owed.

Decedent – A deceased person.

Declarant – The person who makes a statement, usually written, such as in a Living Will.

Descendant – A child, grandchild, great-grandchild, and so forth, down through the generations.

Executor/Administrator – The person named by the maker of a will to carry out the directions set forth in the will.  Their duties include paying all outstanding debts and the disbursement of property to the heirs, as designated in the will.

Fiduciary – A person is given (and accepts) authority and responsibility for assets of someone else; an executor (named in the Will), trustee (named in the Trust), or administrator (when there is no Will or Trust).

Grantee – The recipient of property from a grantor on a deed.

Grantor – A person who transfers real property to someone else. A Grantor is also a person who establishes a Trust; also known as a Settlor.

Trustee – A person who holds, manages, and distributes property for the benefit of another; a fiduciary.

Settlor – A person who establishes a Trust.

Testator – A person who has made a will.


The tangibles –

Codicil – An addition or supplement to a will, may also delete or modify various provisions of a will. It must be witnessed and signed in the same manner as the original will.

Deed – A written document transferring ownership of real property, to another person or entity. Types of deeds include a General Warranty Deed, Quit Claim Deed, Limited Warranty Deed, and Fiduciary Deed.

Estate – A person’s total possessions, including money, investments, and real property at the time of death.

Health Care Power of Attorney – A document in which a competent adult grants another person the authority to make healthcare decisions for them.

Instrument – A written document, such as a deed, a mortgage, a contract, a will, etc.

Last Will and Testament – The will that is valid and in force at the time of death. A will transfers assets through Probate Court.

Living Will – A document that authorizes a person’s healthcare provider to withdraw or withhold life-sustaining procedures if the person has a terminal condition with no reasonable hope of survival.

Power of Attorney – A written document stating that one appoints another to act on his or her behalf as an agent, giving him the authority to carry out certain specified acts.

Real Property – Real estate, fixed property, principally land and buildings.

Trust – An arrangement created by one person (Settlor) where assets of the grantor are transferred to another person (trustee) to be held for the benefit of a third person(s) (beneficiary). The Settlor may also be the trustee and the beneficiary of the trust.

Will – A document made in anticipation of eventual death, in which a person states what he or she wants to be done with his or her property after he or she dies. Such a document must be created, signed, and witnesses according to laws of the state where the document is signed. After death the Will is recorded and filed in a probate court.


The intangibles –

Cause of Action – the reason for which a plaintiff files a complaint or suit against someone.

Fraud – An intentional distortion of truth perpetrated on someone to get them to give up money, property or rights, or something else rightfully belonging to them.

In Trust – The status of property given over to someone else to guard and take care of.

Intestate – Dying without leaving a valid will.

Irrevocable – Unable to be changed by the Settlor outside of limited exceptions.

Mansion House – A legal term meaning a dwelling house of any size and any buildings (as barns or stables) within the property.

Per stirpes – Each branch of the family would receive an equal share of an estate. (If an heir in the first generation of a branch dies before the decedent, the share that would be given to that heir would be distributed among the heir’s issue in equal shares.)

Probate – The legal process of recording a will in the appropriate place, generally a probate court, and proving that it is valid.

Revocable – Able to be amended, revoked or restated during the life of the Settlor.

Tort – a wrongful or illegal act, whether intentional or unintentional, in which an injury occurs to another person.

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