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LEGAL TERMS

DOWER AND CURTESY

A surviving spouse's right to receive a set portion of the deceased spouse's estate -- usually one-third to one-half. Dower (not to be confused with a 'dowry') ... (more...)
A surviving spouse's right to receive a set portion of the deceased spouse's estate -- usually one-third to one-half. Dower (not to be confused with a 'dowry') refers to the portion to which a surviving wife is entitled, while curtesy refers to what a man may claim. Until recently, these amounts differed in a number of states. However, because discrimination on the basis of sex is now illegal in most cases, most states have abolished dower and curtesy and generally provide the same benefits regardless of sex -- and this amount is often known simply as the statutory share. Under certain circumstances, a living spouse may not be able to sell or convey property that is subject to the other spouse's dower and curtesy or statutory share rights.

SPENDTHRIFT TRUST

A trust created for a beneficiary the grantor considers irresponsible about money. The trustee keeps control of the trust income, doling out money to the benefi... (more...)
A trust created for a beneficiary the grantor considers irresponsible about money. The trustee keeps control of the trust income, doling out money to the beneficiary as needed, and sometimes paying third parties (creditors, for example) on the beneficiary's behalf, bypassing the beneficiary completely. Spendthrift trusts typically contain a provision prohibiting creditors from seizing the trust fund to satisfy the beneficiary's debts. These trusts are legal in most states, even though creditors hate them.

ESTATE TAXES

Taxes imposed by the state or federal government on property as it passes from the dead to the living. All property you own, whatever the form of ownership, and... (more...)
Taxes imposed by the state or federal government on property as it passes from the dead to the living. All property you own, whatever the form of ownership, and whether or not it goes through probate after your death, is subject to federal estate tax. Currently, however, federal estate tax is due only if your property is worth at least $2 million when you die. The estate tax is scheduled to be repealed for one year, in 2010, but Congress will probably make the repeal (or a very high exempt amount) permanent. Any property left to a surviving spouse (if he or she is a U.S. citizen) or a tax-exempt charity is exempt from federal estate taxes. Many states now also impose their own estate taxes or inheritance taxes.

ABSTRACT OF TRUST

A condensed version of a living trust document, which leaves out details of what is in the trust and the identity of the beneficiaries. You can show an abstract... (more...)
A condensed version of a living trust document, which leaves out details of what is in the trust and the identity of the beneficiaries. You can show an abstract of trust to a financial organization or other institution to prove that you have established a valid living trust, without revealing specifics that you want to keep private. In some states, this document is called a 'certification of trust.'

ADMINISTRATOR

A person appointed by a probate court to handle the distribution of property of someone who has died without a will, or with a will that fails to name someone t... (more...)
A person appointed by a probate court to handle the distribution of property of someone who has died without a will, or with a will that fails to name someone to carry out this task. administrator ad litem A person appointed by a probate court to represent an estate during a lawsuit. (Ad litem is Latin for 'during the litigation.') An administrator ad litem is appointed only if there is no existing executor or administrator of the estate, or if the executor or administrator has conflicting interests. For example, Jerry's will leaves most of his property to his brother, Jeff, and also names Jeff as executor of the will. But Jerry's sister, Janine, feels that Jerry made the will under improper pressure from Jeff, and brings a lawsuit to challenge it. The court appoints an administrator ad litem to represent Jerry's estate while the lawsuit is in progress. Also known as administrator ad prosequendum, meaning administrator 'during the prosecution.' administrator ad prosequendum See administrator ad litem.administrator cum testamento annexo See administrator with will annexed. administrator de bonis non (DBN) Latin for 'administrator of goods not administered.' This term refers to the person appointed by a probate court to finish probate proceedings when the executor or previous administrator can't finish the job.administrator de bonis non cum testamento annexo (DBNCTA) A baffling title for an administrator appointed by a probate court to take over probate proceedings when the named executor dies, leaving the job unfinished.administrator pendente lite Latin for 'administrator pending litigation.' This term refers to the person appointed by a court to begin probate proceedings during a lawsuit that challenges the will. The administrator pendente lite takes an inventory of the deceased person's property and handles the business affairs of the estate until the dispute is settled. Also called a special administrator.administrator with will annexed An administrator who takes the place of an executor under a will. The administrator steps in either when a will fails to nominate an executor or the named executor is unable to serve. Also called administrator cum testamento annexo or CTA, the Latin version of 'with the will annexed.'

SUMMARY PROBATE

A relatively simple probate proceeding available for 'small estates,' as that term is defined by state law. Every state's definition is different, and many are ... (more...)
A relatively simple probate proceeding available for 'small estates,' as that term is defined by state law. Every state's definition is different, and many are complicated, but a few examples include estates worth up to $100,000 in California; New York estates where property, excluding real estate and amounts that must be set aside for surviving family members, is worth $20,000 or less; and Texas estates where the value of property doesn't exceed what is needed to pay a family allowance and certain creditors.

INCOMPETENCE

The inability, as determined by a court, to handle one's own personal or financial affairs. A court may declare that a person is incompetent after a hearing at ... (more...)
The inability, as determined by a court, to handle one's own personal or financial affairs. A court may declare that a person is incompetent after a hearing at which the person is present and/or represented by an attorney. A finding of incompetence may lead to the appointment of a conservator to manage the person's affairs. Also known as 'incompetency.'

LIFE BENEFICIARY

A person who receives benefits, under a trust or by will, for his or her lifetime. For an example, see AB trust.

SPRINKLING TRUST

A trust that gives the person managing it (the trustee) the discretion to disburse its funds among the beneficiaries in any way he or she sees fit.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF BEAUREGARD

Discussion. When a will is traced to the testator's possession or to where he had ready access to it and the original cannot be located after his death, there are three plausible explanations for the will's absence: (1) the testator destroyed it with the intent to revoke it; (2) the will ...

Equity One, Inc. v. Estate of Williams

72 Mass. App. Ct. 1108 (2008). EQUITY ONE, INC. v. ESTATE OF ALFRED WILLIAMS & others. No. 07-P-493. Appeals Court of Massachusetts. July 16, 2008. Decision Pursuant to Rule 1:28. Judgment reversed.

REAL ESTATE BAR ASSOCIATION FOR MASSACHUSETTS, INC. v. National Real Estate Information Services

William P. O'Donnell, Anthony J. Vigliotti, Robert F. Kelley, John R. Buckley, Jr., F. Sydney Smithers, IV, & Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., for Register of Deeds for Berkshire County & others. ... Matthew J. Maiona for the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers ...