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Some Common Will Terms Explained

It seems that we are constantly bombarded with jargon, and legal documents are certainly no exception. Wills in particular often contain arcane terms which can be difficult to decipher.

The following is a brief explanation of some common terms associated with wills and probate:

Beneficiary — A person (or entity) who receives property under a will or trust

Bequest — A gift under a will

Bequeath — To give a gift in a will

Codicil — An amendment that alters a will

Decedent — The person who died

Devise — A gift (usually of real estate), can also be a verb meaning to give a gift

Escheat — A legal principle whereby property goes to the state because there are no heirs

Estate — All the property of a decedent

Executor (female: executrix) — A person nominated in a will to administer the estate (in Florida the term "executor" is no longer used and "personal representative" is used instead)

Fiduciary Duty — The duty owed by someone, such as a personal representative or trustee, to manage the property or money in the best interests of another person

Inter Vivos Trust — A living trust set up during a person's lifetime

Intestate — A person who dies without a will

Legacy — Property left in a will

Letters of Administration — A document issued by the probate court authorizing the personal representative to act (referred to as "Letters Testamentary" in some states)

Personal Representative — The person (including a trust company or bank) appointed by the court to administer an estate

Pretermitted Heir — A spouse or child presumed to have been unintentionally omitted from a will and who may claim a share of the estate in certain circumstances

Residue or Residuary Estate — Property remaining in the estate after all specific gifts have been distributed

Settlor — Someone who sets up a trust, also known as a "trustor" and "grantor"

Testamentary Trust — A trust created after death through a will

Testator (female: testatrix) — A person who makes a will

Trust — A legal entity whereby property is held by one person on behalf of another

Trustee — The person responsible for administering a trust

Contact an experienced Orlando probate attorney for help in preparing your will and for assistance with probate matters. 

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