ADMINISTRATOR [ADMINISTRATRIX] – A person appointed by the Court to administer the estate of a person who died without a will.

ADMINISTRATOR WITH WILL ANNEXED – A person appointed by the Court to administer the estate of a person who died with a will, but this person was not named in the will to act as a personal representative.

BENEFICIARY – A person or organization that derives advantage from something, especially a trust, will, or life insurance policy.

CODICIL – An amendment or supplement to an existing will.

CONSERVATEE – A person determined by the Court to be unable to protect and manage their own personal care or financial affairs, or both. A person who has a Court appointed conservator.

CONSERVATOR [OR GUARDIAN] – A person appointed by the Court to protect and manage the personal care or financial affairs, or both, of a conservatee.

CONSERVATOR OF THE ESTATE – A person who handles the conservatee’s financial matters, such as paying bills and collecting a person’s income, if the Court determines the conservatee cannot perform those functions.

CONSERVATOR OF THE PERSON – A person appointed by the Court that cares for and protects an individual when the Court determines that the individual cannot provide for their own care.

CONSERVATORSHIP – A legal concept where a guardian or conservator is appointed by the Court to manage the financial affairs and/or daily life of another.

DECEDENT – A person who has died.

DEVISEE – A person who receives a gift of real property by a will. The distinction between gifts of real property and personal property are actually blurred, so terms like “beneficiary” or “legatee” generally cover those receiving any gift by a will.

ESTATE – A person’s total possessions, including money, jewelry, securities, land, etc. These assets are managed by a fiduciary subject to a Court order. Types of estates include guardianship estate, conservatorship estate, or decedent’s estate.

EXECUTOR [EXECUTRIX] – The person named in a will to carry out the directions as set forth in the will. This person is the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.

FIDUCIARY – A person with a legal responsibility to safeguard the interests of another person.

GUARDIAN – A person appointed by the Court who looks after and is legally responsible for someone who is unable to manage their own personal or financial affairs, such as a minor.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM – A person appointed by a Court as guardian of a child or other person to act on his or her behalf in a particular action or proceeding.

HEIR – A person who would naturally inherit property through a will, or from another who died without leaving a will.

HOLOGRAPHIC WILL – A will that is completely handwritten, dated and signed by the person making the will (the testator).

INTESTATE – When used about a person, intestate means not having made a legally valid will prior to death; when used about property, intestate means not effectively disposed of by a legally valid will.

IRREVOCABLE TRUST – A trust that cannot be changed at any time.

LEGATEE – A person who receives personal property through a will. The term legatee is often used to denote those who inherit under a will without any distinction between real property and personal property, but technically, a devisee inherits real property under a will.

LETTERS – The Court document that establishes the authority to act as a guardian, conservator, or personal representative (executor or administrator). In decedent’s estates, an executor’s letters are designated “letters testamentary,” and an administrator’s letters are “letters of administration.”

LIVING TRUST – A revocable trust set up during the lifetime of a person to distribute money or property to another person or organization. This trust has a duration that is deemed at the trust’s creation and can entail the distribution of assets to the beneficiary during or after the trustor’s lifetime. Also known as an inter-vivos trust.

MINOR – A person under the age of full legal responsibility.

PERSONAL PROPERTY – Movable property; belongings exclusive of land and buildings.

PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE – An administrator or executor appointed by the Court to administer a decedent’s estate.

PETITION – A written, formal request, properly filed with the Court, for a specific action or order. The petition is a pre-printed Court form in some cases, or written in proper format on pleading paper in others.

PROBATE – The legal process of administering a will. Also, the judicially supervised process for marshaling a decedent’s assets, paying proper debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the persons or entities entitled.

PROBATE COURT – The Court that handles matters concerning wills and estates, such as the distribution of property or money to those named in a will. In California, the Probate Court also handles guardianships and conservatorships.

PROPERTY – Anything that can be owned such as money, securities, land, buildings, etc.

REAL PROPERTY – Land and immovable objects on the land such as buildings.

REVOCABLE TRUST – A trust in which the person making the trust retains the power to revoke the trust.

SMALL ESTATES – A decedent’s estate may avoid probate and have personal property transferred directly to an heir if the decedent’s estate meets the requirements of California Probate Code §13100.

SUCCESSOR FIDUCIARY – The next person or organization appointed if a vacancy arises in a conservatorship, guardianship, or decedent’s estate because of the fiduciary’s death, removal, or resignation.

TESTATE – It is the condition of a person who dies leaving a will; opposite of intestate.

TESTATOR – A person who makes a will.

TESTAMENTARY TRUST – A trust created by the terms of a will to manage assets given to the beneficiaries. The opposite of a living or inter-vivos trust because it goes into effect upon the death of the trustor.

TRUST – An entity created to hold assets for the benefit of certain persons or entities, with a trustee managing the trust.

TRUSTEE – A person or organization that has been authorized by a trust to hold and manage property for the benefit of a beneficiary.

TRUSTOR – The person or persons who create a trust.

WILL – A written document that leaves the estate of the person who signed the will to named persons or entities. The document should be made according to law (California Probate Code §6100) and is filed in Probate Court after the person has died.*

*Please note that the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice concerning any and all aspects of Probate, Trusts or Conservatorships, you should contact your attorney.