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Probate Terminology For the Non-Attorney

You don’t have to be well-versed in legalese to be able to create a comprehensive estate plan. Unfortunately, estate planning attorneys sometimes use language with which they are very familiar, even though their clients are not. Sometimes this language can make it hard for clients to know exactly what is going on, so it’s always in your best interest to speak up if you aren’t familiar with the terms your lawyer uses. Here are some common probate terms that you may encounter.

Estate. The term “estate” simply means all the property you leave behind after you die. It also includes all of your obligations, such as any debts you may owe. You may also hear the term “probate estate.” The probate estate is the property that must pass through probate before a new owner can possess it. Not all property has to go through probate, so probate estates have less property then your entire estate.

Executor. The probate process involves a system of court hearings, document filings, and other steps that must take place before the probate estate can be distributed to new owners. The person responsible for managing this process is known as an executor. Alternatively, courts may use the term “personal representative” or even “estate administrator,” even though they all refer to the same person.

Decedent. A person who dies is referred to as a decedent during the probate process. This is the person who left behind property that the probate process must now address. Decedents, if they wrote a Last Will and Testament, are also known as testators if male, and testatrixes if female.

We will review many of these, as well as other terms, when we hold our estate planning seminar this September 10th and 13th in Greensboro, North Carolina. Contact our office for more details or register here.

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