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Your Essential Estate Planning & Probate Glossary


Estate planning and probate can be complicated, especially for those who have never been a party to either.

Understanding some of the basic terms, players, and processes, however, can be helpful to start orienting yourself as to what to expect and what issues will likely be involved moving forward.

So, below, we have clearly defined some of the fundamental terms associated with estate planning and probate in an easy-to-use reference glossary.

Estate Planning & Probate Terms: People

  • Agent – A person designated to have a power of attorney for someone else. The power of attorney can be medical and/or financial in nature, giving the agent authority to make medical and/or financial decisions on behalf of the grantor when some event happens and/or upon incapacitation.
  • Beneficiary – Someone who has been named as the heir to some asset by a will, a trust, or a “payable/transfer upon death” designation.
  • Conservatee – A person who is placed under a conservatorship by the court because (s)he is unable to manage his or her financial (and/or other) issues on his or her own.
  • Conservator – A person who has the court-appointed authority to oversee another person’s (i.e., a conservatee’s) financial affairs because the conservatee is unable to do so for him- or herself.
  • Decedent – Someone who has passed away.
  • Fiduciary – Someone who has a certain duty of care in dealing with another party. Fiduciaries are usually those who have been entrusted to manage money or other assets for another party, and they can include lawyers, accountants, and non-professionals when, for instance, they serve as executors or personal representatives.
  • Grantor – A person who develops a will, a power of attorney, or another estate planning feature.
  • Trustee – Someone who manages a trust and distributes its assets according to the terms of the trust documents.

Estate Planning & Probate Terms: Features & Tools

  • Irrevocable trust – A trust that cannot be altered or terminated once it has taken effect. While people can set up irrevocable living trusts during their lifetime, a revocable living trust can become an irrevocable living trust upon the death of the grantor.
  • Power of attorney – The legal authority to make certain decisions on behalf of a grantor when the grantor cannot make these decisions for him- or herself.
  • Revocable trust – A trust that can be changed or terminated by the grantor whenever (s)he sees fit.
  • Trust – An estate planning tool allows one party to transfer certain assets to one or more beneficiaries via a third party (i.e., trustee). How and when the assets are transferred from the trustee to the beneficiaries will depend on the specific terms of the trust.
  • Will – An estate planning document that details how someone wants their assets to be handled upon their death.

Estate Planning & Probate Terms: Processes & Other Terms

  • Intestacy – A situation in which someone dies without a legal will in place. When this happens, the decedent is said to have died “intestacy.”
  • Probate – The process of determining the validity of the will. Once a will has been deemed valid, probate will then generally involve inventorying the assets of an estate, paying the estate’s legitimate creditors, distributing the assets of the estate, and then closing the estate.

Contact a Santa Clarita Estate & Probate Attorney at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman

Contact a seasoned Santa Clarita estate attorney at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman when you are ready to discuss your estate planning needs, as well as your best options for moving forward. Since 1980, our attorney has been dedicated to providing his clients with personalized, highly responsive service, as well as superior representation for their important legal matters.

Call our firm at (818) 892-7093 or by filling out the contact form on this page.

From our offices based in North Hills, we provide the highest quality legal services to our clients throughout the San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, and the greater Los Angeles area.

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