Common Estate Planning Terms

Attorney-in-Fact – A person who has power over another person’s property and finances through a Power of Attorney.

Beneficiary – A person who is entitled to receive property from another person’s estate through the laws of intestate succession, or through a will or trust agreement.

Codicil – A document that supplements, amends, or revokes portions of an existing will.

Community Property – Property of any type acquired by a married person during marriage, while living in California, is presumed to be community property, with each spouse having equal control of and right to the property.

Conservator – A person who has qualified and been appointed to act as the conservator of an incapacitated adult’s estate and/or person. A conservator of the estate takes care of person’s finances, money, and any matters that involve property. A conservator of the person makes sure the person has proper food, clothing, shelter, health care, and appropriate social activities.

Custodian – A person who holds property for a minor pursuant to the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act or other similar acts.

Devisee – A person designated in a will to receive a distribution of property from a decedent.

Disclaim – To refuse to accept a gift or inheritance so that it passes to the next person in line.

Disclaimer Trust – A trust established by a married couple’s joint trust when the first spouse dies and the surviving spouse disclaims any interest in the deceased spouse’s property. The trust is funded by the deceased spouse’s separate property and share of the community property up to a specific amount. It is irrevocable. The surviving spouse has control over the income, but not the principal. Also called a B Trust or Bypass Trust.

Estate – The property and rights of a decedent which exist prior to the distribution of that property in
accordance with a will or pursuant to applicable intestacy provisions.

Executor – The person appointed to administer the will of a deceased person. The executor must submit the decedent’s will to probate, inventory and value the decedent’s assets, pay the decedent’s proper debts and liabilities, pursue or release claims of the estate, and distribute the decedent’s property to the persons entitled to receive it either under a valid will or as directed pursuant to the intestacy statutes. Also called a Personal Representative.

Fiduciary – A person who is responsible for the property of another person and held to a high legal standard of care. Attorneys-In-Fact, Conservators, Custodians, Executors, Guardians, and Trustees are all types of fiduciaries.

Grantor – The person who transfers property to a trustee to establish a trust. Also called a Trustor or Settlor.

Guardian – A person who has qualified and been appointed to act as the guardian of a minor’s estate and/or person. A guardian of the minor’s estate takes care of the minor’s property, including any inheritance. A guardian of the minor’s person has care, custody, and control of the minor, and makes sure the minor has proper food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, and emotional support.

Heirs – Those persons entitled to receive property from a decedent’s estate through the laws of intestate succession. The order of intestate succession is: spouse, issue (children, grandchildren, etc.), parents, parents’ issue (siblings, nieces, nephews), grandparents, grandparents’ issue (aunts, uncles), issue of predeceased spouse, next of kin.

Holographic Will – A handwritten will that does not comply with formal legal requirements. The signature and material provisions of the holographic will must be in the handwriting of the testator to be valid.

Income – Property that a fiduciary receives as a return on a principal asset, such as interest, rent, or profit from sale.

Intestacy or Intestate – The status of dying without making a will or other distribution to take effect upon death. When someone dies intestate, state laws direct how that person’s property will be distributed.

Irrevocable Trust – A trust that cannot be amended or revoked.

Issue – The lineal descendants of a person who are linked through parent-child relationships

Power of Attorney – A document that names an attorney-in-fact to have control of and responsibility for a person’s property and finances. Can be springing (effective at a specific time, such as upon incapacitation) or immediate. Can be durable (effective regardless of later incapacitation).

Principal Asset – The original asset for which a fiduciary has responsibility. A trust is funded with several principal assets.

Probate – The court proceeding and process that provides a statutory mechanism to establish the authenticity of a will, inventory and value a decedent’s property, pay the decedent’s debts and expenses, and distribute property to the persons entitled to receive it.

Revocable Trust – A trust that may be amended or revoked by the grantor(s). A revocable trust may be commonly referred to as a “living trust.”

Separate Property – Property owned by a person prior to marriage, or received during marriage as a gift or through inheritance, including any rents or profits that come from that property. The owner of the separate property has complete control of that property.

Special Needs Trust – Allows money to supplement a recipient of special benefits without cutting off those benefits.

Special Needs Trust Committee – Responsible for advising the trustee on appropriate action. Can be a committee of financial advisors, religious leaders, social workers, and others with greater expertise than the trustee.

Special Needs Trust Protector – Responsible for overseeing the Trustee. Has the power to remove and replace the Trustee. The Trust Protector is unrelated to the beneficiary.

Special Needs Trust Trustee – A Trustee with personal knowledge of the beneficiary’s needs. Usually a relative.

Survivor’s Trust – A trust established by a married couple’s joint trust when the first spouse dies and funded with the surviving spouse’s separate property and share of the community property. The surviving spouse has complete control over the trust principal and income. Also called the A Trust.

Testamentary Trust – A trust established or that takes effect upon the death of the grantor. Testator/Testatrix – The creator or maker of a will.

Trust – A relationship where a grantor transfers property to a trustee to be held, administered, and distributed for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries.

Trust Agreement – The document that establishes the terms under which the trust is administered, identifies the property transferred to the trustee, identifies the beneficiaries, and sets forth conditions upon which property of the trust may be distributed to the beneficiaries.

Trustee – A person who assumes the responsibility to administer a trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the trust. A trustee is a fiduciary who generally owes the highest duties to the beneficiaries of the trust.

Uniform Transfers to Minors Act – Statutory provisions which allow a transfer of assets to a custodian to be held for the benefit of a minor.

Will – A document that takes effect at death to dispose of property and that may express other desires such as the establishment of trusts and the exclusion of certain heirs. A will must comply with certain legal requirements to be valid.

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Meet Eddie

Edward Burns Estate Planner

Edward Burns

Estate Planning Attorney

Eddie was on the path to becoming a prosecutor, winning felony trials, but decided to help clients directly. With a large family and talent for getting to know people, estate planning is the perfect fit.