The grief and pain we experience upon the death of loved one is devastating enough.  There is certainly no reason to add to the difficulty with attempting to settle an estate on your own.   During such an emotional time it is important to work with a compassionate and experienced attorney who can hold your hand through the entire probate process.  From petitioning the court to open an estate through the closing and settling of the estate, we will be there with you for each step.  While the probate process may appear intimidating and confusing, understanding certain terms may clarify some of the confusion.

Advance Health Care Directive – A written document in which you (the principal) designate another person (the agent) to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself.  You may also direct which decisions should be made in certain medical situations.  This is sometimes referred to as a “Living Will.”

Beneficiary – A person for whose benefit an estate plan is created.

Conservator – A person who has been appointed by the Court to make financial decisions for an incapacitated adult.

Executor – (If female, “Executrix”) – The person who is appointed in a will to take care of settling the estate (also referred to as the “personal representative” of the estate). 

Fiduciary – The obligation to manage someone else’s assets in the same way a prudent person would manage his or her own assets.

Guardian – The person who has the legal duty to care for a person under a disability, which may be because of age or incompetence.

Heir – A person who inherits property.

Intestate – When a person dies without leaving a valid will or trust.

Issue – The lineal descendants of a person (e.g., children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.).

Joint Tenancy – A form of co-ownership of property by two or more parties.  When one party dies, his or her interest passes to the other co-owner (known as the “right of survivorship”).

Living Trust – A legal entity created by a person to own and manage his or her property.  The terms of the living trust agreement determine the use and disposition of the trust funds. 

Power of Attorney – A written document in which a person (the principal) designates another person (the agent) to manage the principal’s financial affairs while the principal is living.

Probate – The legal proceeding through which the court supervises the process of transferring a deceased person’s assets to the persons or entities entitled to receive them.

Revocable Living Trust – A living trust that can be changed or dissolved (revoked).  This differs from an Irrevocable Living Trust, which is one that cannot be changed or dissolved.

Testator – (If female, “Testatrix”) – A person who makes a will.

Trustee – The person or entity that is responsible for managing and distributing money and other property held by a trust.

Settlor – (also referred to as the Trustor or Grantor)- A person who establishes a trust.

Will – A written document that directs disposition of one’s assets after his or her death.

At Keeney Law, we assist our clients through the entire probate process, educating them along the way on the requirements and ensuring them that the proper assets are identified, reported and accounted.

We appreciate the trust and confidence you place in us at such a trying time, and we want you to know that we are here to assist in probating your loved one’s estate and to help alleviate the burden from you.