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LEGAL TERMS

ADEMPTION

The failure of a bequest of property in a will. The gift fails (is 'adeemed') because the person who made the will no longer owns the property when he or she di... (more...)
The failure of a bequest of property in a will. The gift fails (is 'adeemed') because the person who made the will no longer owns the property when he or she dies. Often this happens because the property has been sold, destroyed or given away to someone other than the beneficiary named in the will. A bequest may also be adeemed when the will maker, while still living, gives the property to the intended beneficiary (called 'ademption by satisfaction'). When a bequest is adeemed, the beneficiary named in the will is out of luck; he or she doesn't get cash or a different item of property to replace the one that was described in the will. For example, Mark writes in his will, 'I leave to Rob the family vehicle,' but then trades in his car in for a jet ski. When Mark dies, Rob will receive nothing. Frustrated beneficiaries may challenge an ademption in court, especially if the property was not clearly identified in the first place.

ENTITY

An organization, institution or being that has its own existence for legal or tax purposes. An entity is often an organization with an existence separate from i... (more...)
An organization, institution or being that has its own existence for legal or tax purposes. An entity is often an organization with an existence separate from its individual members--for example, a corporation, partnership, trust, estate or government agency. The entity is treated like a person; it can function legally, be sued, and make decisions through agents.

SUCCESSOR TRUSTEE

The person or institution who takes over the management of trust property when the original trustee has died or become incapacitated.

DISCHARGE (OF PROBATE ADMINISTRATOR)

A court order releasing the administrator or executor from any further duties connected with the probate of an estate. This typically occurs when the duties hav... (more...)
A court order releasing the administrator or executor from any further duties connected with the probate of an estate. This typically occurs when the duties have been completed but may happen sooner if the executor or administrator wishes to withdraw or is dismissed.

RESIDUARY BENEFICIARY

A person who receives any property by a will or trust that is not specifically left to another designated beneficiary. For example, if Antonio makes a will leav... (more...)
A person who receives any property by a will or trust that is not specifically left to another designated beneficiary. For example, if Antonio makes a will leaving his home to Edwina and the remainder of his property to Elmo, then Elmo is the residuary beneficiary.

INTESTATE SUCCESSION

The method by which property is distributed when a person dies without a valid will. Each state's law provides that the property be distributed to the closest s... (more...)
The method by which property is distributed when a person dies without a valid will. Each state's law provides that the property be distributed to the closest surviving relatives. In most states, the surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and next of kin inherit, in that order.

LIVING TRUST

A trust you can set up during your life. Living trusts are an excellent way to avoid the cost and hassle of probate because the property you transfer into the t... (more...)
A trust you can set up during your life. Living trusts are an excellent way to avoid the cost and hassle of probate because the property you transfer into the trust during your life passes directly to the trust beneficiaries after you die, without court involvement. The successor trustee--the person you appoint to handle the trust after your death--simply transfers ownership to the beneficiaries you named in the trust. Living trusts are also called 'inter vivos trusts.'

LETTERS TESTAMENTARY

The document given to an executor by the probate court, authorizing the executor to settle the estate according to either a will or the state's intestate succes... (more...)
The document given to an executor by the probate court, authorizing the executor to settle the estate according to either a will or the state's intestate succession laws.

PROVING A WILL

Convincing a probate court that a document is truly the deceased person's will. Usually this is a simple formality that the executor or administrator easily sat... (more...)
Convincing a probate court that a document is truly the deceased person's will. Usually this is a simple formality that the executor or administrator easily satisfies by showing that the will was signed and dated by the deceased person in front of two or more witnesses. When the will is holographic -- that is, completely handwritten by the deceased and not witnessed, it is still valid in many states if the executor can produce relatives and friends to testify that the handwriting is that of the deceased.

SAMPLE LEGAL CASES

Matter of Colverd

... Spain, J. 972 Decedent died in 2000. Thereafter, petitioner—decedent's unmarried companion of nearly 30 years—commenced this proceeding in Surrogate's Court, as named executor, seeking probate of decedent's will. Three ...

MTR OF AMERICAN COMM. v. Dunn

... This appeal requires us to determine the standard applicable to a petition to vacate a probate decree brought by a nonparty to an initial probate proceeding and based upon "newlydiscovered evidence," which allegedly demonstrates that a probated will was procured through ...

Matter of Paigo

... Decedent died in June 2006 and petitioner sought to probate the will. ... Petitioner then moved for summary judgment 838 seeking dismissal of the objections and admitting the will to probate. Concluding that issues of fact existed, Surrogate's Court denied the motion. ...