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Monday, September 11, 2017

A Lawyer To English Dictionary

Deciding it is time to talk with an estate planning attorney and get your affairs in order is a difficult thing to do. It requires you to look death in the face and make some tough decisions about the future. But pondering one’s mortality is a piece of cake compared to having a conversation with some estate planning attorneys.

Some attorneys get so wrapped up in the process that they forget they are talking to an actual human being. They ramble on and on, and use a lot of big, confusing words that normal people don’t understand.

That is not what meeting with an attorney at our firm is like. At our firm, we use every-day English. When it is necessary to use legal jargon, we make sure we translate it into something our clients understand. A good example of this is when we go over the documents we have written up for a client. The documents might include a bunch of legalese because that is what the law requires, but we go through them line by line with our clients to make sure that what we wrote will achieve our client’s goals.

We’ve also put together the following Lawyer to English dictionary of common estate planning terms for anyone that has heard or seen an estate planning term that needs translated.

Administration – Taking care of someone’s estate after they have died. This includes carrying out last requests.

Administrator – The person who manages a dead person’s estate. Sometimes this refers specifically to someone who has been appointed to this job by a judge because the estate plan didn’t name anyone, or the person named said no.

Bequest – This is just a fancy name for a gift.

Beneficiary – A beneficiary is someone who benefits from, aka gets money from, the transfer of property in a will or trust because they are named in the legal documents governing the transfer. “Beneficiary” and “heir” are sometimes used interchangeably in every-day English, but they have different legal definitions.  

Codicil – When a will needs to be amended, but not entirely redone, sometimes it can be changed by creating a codicil.

Decedent – A person who has died is formally known as a decedent.

Descendants – An individual’s children, grandchildren, and more remote persons who are related by blood or because of legal adoption. An individual’s spouse, stepchildren, parents, grandparents, and siblings are not considered descendants. The term “descendants” and “issue” have the same meaning. The terms “beneficiary” and “heir” do not mean the same thing as the word “descendant” even though the same person can be a descendant and an heir or a descendant and a beneficiary.

Executor – The person responsible for carrying out the wishes of the person who has died is formally known as the executor. If the executor is a female and the lawyer who drafted the estate planning documents was feeling fancy, they might have called her the executrix. An “executor” is the same thing as a “personal representative.”

Heir –  When someone dies without an estate plan, state law governs who inherits what. Anyone who inherits something from someone without an estate plan is known as an heir.

Intestate – The formal term for dying without a will.

Irrevocable trust – A trust that cannot be changed or terminated after it is created. There are certain tax advantages to creating such a trust.

Issue – An individual’s children, grandchildren, and more remote persons who are related by blood or because of legal adoption. An individual’s spouse, stepchildren, parents, grandparents, and siblings are not considered descendants. The term “descendants” and “issue” have the same meaning.

Living trust – A trust created by an individual during his or her lifetime.

Living will – A document that tells your family and medical professionals what you want to happen in life-threatening medical situations if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Personal representative – Another term for the person who carries out the last wishes of a person who has died.

Power of attorney – A document that gives decision-making power over legal and financial issues to another person.

Probate – The process of taking a will to court to have it verified and put into action after the creator dies.

Testator – A person who signs a will. A female will-signer is sometimes called a testatrix.


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