Estate Planning Glossary: Key Terms to Know

Estate planning glossary

When you first dive into getting your affairs in order, all the new terms and phrases you need to understand can be overwhelming. To help guide you through the estate planning process, we’ve gathered several of the most important terms you might need to know:

Administration: This is when there is a court-supervised distribution of an estate during probate. This term is also used to describe a similar process for a trust after a grantor dies.

Administrator/Administratrix: A person named by the court to manage an estate during probate if the deceased left no will or the will did not name an executor.

Assets: Basically, anything you own – real estate, cash, vehicles, etc. Assets are accounted for and divided up during probate.

Codicil: A written change or other amendment to a will.

Conservatorship: A person who is legally responsible for the care and well-being of another person. Can also be called a guardian.

Contest: To challenge or dispute the terms of a will or trust.

Creditor: A person or institution to whom money is owed.

Disinherit: To prevent a person, usually a relative, from benefiting from your estate upon your death.

Estate: Assets and debts left by an individual upon death.

Estate taxes: Federal or state taxes on the assets a person leaves after death. Also called death tax or inheritance tax.

Executor/Executrix: A person or persons named in a will to carry out its instruction. In Maryland, known as a “personal representative.”

Grantor: The person who sets up a trust.

Heir: A person who, by law, is entitled to a portion of your estate.

Incapacitated/Incompetent: Unable, physically or mentally, to care for one’s own affairs. A person is usually deemed incapacitated or incompetent during guardianship proceedings.

Intestate: Without a will, usually referring to someone who dies without a written will.

Living will: A document that states you do not wish to be kept alive using artificial means when you have a terminal illness or injury. Additionally, giving another person the legal authority to make financial and/or medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself.

Power of Attorney: A legal document giving another person the legal authority to sign your name in your absence.

Probate: The legal process of validating a will, settling debts, and distributing assets after a person’s death.

Special needs trust: Allows for the care of a person with special needs without impacting qualification for government benefits.

Testate: Someone who dies with a valid will.

Trust: An entity that holds assets for the benefits of others. A trust also can outline the disposition of assets after death; in this way, a trust can serve as a “will substitute” and eliminate the need for probate.

Will: A written document outlining the disposing of assets after death. A will can only be enforced through probate court.

Experienced Estate Planning Attorney in Maryland

Making sure your affairs are in order is one of the many ways you can make things easier for your loved ones at the end of life. Contact us today to schedule your consultation with estate and elder law attorney David Wingate.


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