Last Revised: September 10, 2022 | Download PDF


- a person who is appointed by a court to administer the estate of a decedent who died without a will.

Ancillary Probate

- The probate process for property located outside of the decedent’s “home” state.


- Property that is given according to the terms of a will.


- an insurance policy to prevent loss or waste of a probate estate.


- an amendment to a will. When a person dies, a codicil gets added to the original will.


- a person who has passed away.

Elective Share

- An elective share gives a surviving spouse the right to take a percentage or share of a decedent’s estate if the surviving spouse is not satisfied with what was left to them by will.


- The collective real and personal property of a decedent, including their debts and obligations.


- A person or corporation named in a will who can administer a decedent’s probate estate. The testator nominates an executor and the court appoints the executor if the will meets all legal requirements.


- A person who establishes a trust.

Gross Estate (IRS)

- The total dollar value of a person’s assets at the time of their death. Every asset is considered, regardless of whether or not they were subject to probate or placed in trust. The IRS will also consider assets that were given away within the three years before death.


- A person who is entitled to inherit a decedent’s estate by operation of law when a person dies.

Holographic Will

- a handwritten will (several states don’t recognize holographic wills).


- dying without a valid will.


- A thorough listing of the decedent’s assets.


- The persons or entities that are designated in a will to receive the testator’s property. Commonly known as beneficiaries.

Letters of Office/Letters of Administration/Letters Testamentary

- documented court authorization for a personal representative to act on behalf of the estate.

Non-Probate Assets

- Assets that are automatically transferred to beneficiaries when a decedent passes away. Joint assets and assets with beneficiary designations are examples of non-probate assets.

Personal Representative

- Typically an administrator or executor. It can be a person or corporation who acts on behalf of the decedent in connection with administering the estate.

Pour-over Will

- A will that directs an executor to transfer any assets that are part of the decedent’s probate estate into the decedent’s revocable trust.

Power of Attorney

- A document created by a person (“principal) that allows another person (“agent”) to make decisions for them if they no longer have the ability to make decisions for themselves. Powers of attorney are only valid while the principal is living.


- the process of court-involved administration of a decedent’s estate.

Probate Assets/Probate Estate-

- assets that were left in the decedent’s name alone. These assets have no designated beneficiary or surviving joint owner associated with them.

Revocable Trust

- a legal agreement between a Grantor and a Trustee in which the Grantor transfers assets to the FINISH


- Balance or remainder of an estate after all debts, expenses, taxes, and specific distributions are made to legatees.

Self-Proving Will

- A validly executed will that includes notarized affidavits by the witnesses to “prove” the validity of the will at a later date.

Small Estate

- not all states recognize “small estates”. Estates that have probate assets that are less than a certain monetary value. Some states have non-probate small estate procedures, in other words, the small estate can be handled outside of court.

Testamentary Trust

- A trust that is established within a will and goes into effect when a person passes away.


- when a person dies with a will.


- a person who creates a will.


- A trust is a legal agreement whereby one party entrusts another to hold title to assets. Trusts can be revocable or irrevocable. To create a valid trust the Grantor must have the capacity and intent to create the trust, the property must be transferred into the trust, there must be a trustee to manage the property, and there should be beneficiaries to accept the property.


- A person, people, or corporation who is responsible for administering the terms of a trust. A trustee is legally responsible for following the instructions in a trust exactly as they are provided.


- A legally binding document that transfers a person’s property to designated beneficiaries when that person dies. In most cases, a will is subject to the probate process.