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Probate Terminology

Beneficiary: Someone who inherits something from an estate with a will. A beneficiary is named in the will.

Codicil: A supplement to a will such as a document or rider that modifies or supersedes an existing provision of the will or creates a new provision.

Conservator: Someone appointed to manage the affairs of someone who is incompetent or unable to make decisions for themself.

Heir: Someone who inherits property when someone dies. An heir is someone who is not named as a beneficiary in the will but is a family member of the deceased by marriage or blood. This includes a spouse, child, parent, or, in some cases, more extended family.

Intestate: Someone who dies without a legal will in places dies intestate. In this case, distribution of the estate’s assets is the responsibility of the probate court and completed according to state law.

Joint Tenancy With Rights of Survivorship: A type of joint property ownership that grants co-owners the right to a share of the home upon the death of a joint tenant. The interest of the deceased co-owner is automatically transferred to surviving co-owners. With regular joint tenancy ownership without right of survivorship, tenants in common have no right of survivorship unless the deceased co-owner specifically states that his or her interest in the property should be divided among surviving co-owners in a will.

Personal Representative (Executor or Executrix): A personal representative, also known as an executor or executrix is someone designated by a will to administer an estate and handle distribution of the estate’s assets to beneficiaries.

Probate: A court process in which a will is proved valid and a decedent’s estate is settled.

Probate Court: The state court under the judicial system that handles matters related to conservatorships, wills, and estates.

Tenancy in Common: A type of shared tenancy in which each tenant or owner has a separate interest in the property that can be transferred.

Testate: Someone who has died and left a valid will