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LEGAL TERMS

INVENTORY

A complete listing of all property owned by a deceased person at the time of death. The inventory is filed with the court during probate. The executor or admini... (more...)
A complete listing of all property owned by a deceased person at the time of death. The inventory is filed with the court during probate. The executor or administrator of the estate is responsible for making and filing the inventory.

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.

CONSERVATOR

Someone appointed by a judge to oversee the affairs of an incapacitated person. A conservator who manages financial affairs is often called a 'conservator of th... (more...)
Someone appointed by a judge to oversee the affairs of an incapacitated person. A conservator who manages financial affairs is often called a 'conservator of the estate.' One who takes care of personal matters, such as healthcare and living arrangements, is known as a 'conservator of the person.' Sometimes, one conservator is appointed to handle all these tasks. Depending on where you live, a conservator may also be called a guardian, committee or curator.

NONPROBATE

The distribution of a deceased person's property by any means other than probate. Many types of property pass free of probate, including property left to a surv... (more...)
The distribution of a deceased person's property by any means other than probate. Many types of property pass free of probate, including property left to a surviving spouse and property left outside of a will through probate-avoidance methods such as pay-on-death designations, joint tenancy ownership, living trusts and life insurance. Property that avoids probate is sometimes described as the 'nonprobate estate.' Nonprobate distribution may also occur if the deceased person leaves an invalid will. In that case, property will pass according to the particular state's laws of intestate succession.

SECONDARY MEANING

In trademark law, a mark that is not inherently distinctive becomes protected after developing a 'secondary meaning': great public recognition through long use ... (more...)
In trademark law, a mark that is not inherently distinctive becomes protected after developing a 'secondary meaning': great public recognition through long use and exposure in the marketplace. For example, though first names are not generally considered inherently distinctive, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream has become so well known that it is now entitled to maximum trademark protection.

PER CAPITA

Under a will, the most common method of determining what share of property each beneficiary gets when one of the beneficiaries dies before the willmaker, leavin... (more...)
Under a will, the most common method of determining what share of property each beneficiary gets when one of the beneficiaries dies before the willmaker, leaving children of his or her own. For example, Fred leaves his house jointly to his son Alan and his daughter Julie. But Alan dies before Fred, leaving two young children. If Fred's will states that heirs of a deceased beneficiary are to receive the property per capita, Julie and the two grandchildren will each take a third. If, on the other hand, Fred's will states that heirs of a deceased beneficiary are to receive the property per stirpes, Julie will receive one-half of the property, and Alan's two children will share his half in equal shares (through Alan by right of representation).

GRANTOR RETAINED INCOME TRUST

Irrevocable trusts designed to save on estate tax. There are several kinds; with all of them, you keep income from trust property, or use of that property, for ... (more...)
Irrevocable trusts designed to save on estate tax. There are several kinds; with all of them, you keep income from trust property, or use of that property, for a period of years. When the trust ends, the property goes to the final beneficiaries you've named. These trusts are for people who have enough wealth to feel comfortable giving away a substantial hunk of property. They come in three flavors: Grantor-Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs), Grantor-Retained Unitrusts (GRUTs) and Grantor-Retained Income Trusts (GRITs).

COUNTERCLAIM

A defendant's court papers that seek to reverse the thrust of the lawsuit by claiming that it was the plaintiff -- not the defendant -- who committed legal wron... (more...)
A defendant's court papers that seek to reverse the thrust of the lawsuit by claiming that it was the plaintiff -- not the defendant -- who committed legal wrongs, and that as a result it is the defendant who is entitled to money damages or other relief. Usually filed as part of the defendant's answer -- which also denies plaintiff's claims -- a counterclaim is commonly but not always based on the same events that form the basis of the plaintiff's complaint. For example, a defendant in an auto accident lawsuit might file a counterclaim alleging that it was really the plaintiff who caused the accident. In some states, the counterclaim has been replaced by a similar legal pleading called a cross-complaint. In other states and in federal court, where counterclaims are still used, a defendant must file any counterclaim that stems from the same events covered by the plaintiff's complaint or forever lose the right to do so. In still other states where counterclaims are used, they are not mandatory, meaning a defendant is free to raise a claim that it was really the plaintiff who was at fault either in a counterclaim or later as part of a separate lawsuit.

IN TERROREM

Latin meaning 'in fear.' This phrase is used to describe provisions in contracts or wills meant to scare a person into complying with the terms of the agreement... (more...)
Latin meaning 'in fear.' This phrase is used to describe provisions in contracts or wills meant to scare a person into complying with the terms of the agreement. For example, a will might state that an heir will forfeit her inheritance if she challenges the validity of the will. Of course, if the will is challenged and found to be invalid, then the clause itself is also invalid and the heir takes whatever she would have inherited if there were no will.

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 ...