Below, we share basic information about some probate and trust administration terms, documents, and processes. For more detailed information, download our Probate FAQs (coming soon) and take a look at our articles and videos on estate planning topics.
Decedent: The person who has passed away
Estate: All of the decedent’s assets owned in their name alone (with no named beneficiaries or joint owners)
Personal Representative: The individual who is appointed by the court to be responsible for administering the estate of a deceased person (sometimes also referred to as an executor)
Heirs: Those who receive funds from an estate under intestate succession laws due to their relationship to the decedent
Devisees: Those who are specifically named in a will as a recipient of a portion of a decedent’s estate
Survivors: Those who have outlived the decedent
Intestate succession laws:State laws that dictate the distribution of a decedent’s property if no will is in place
Beneficiary/Transfer on Death (TOD) Designee: An individual designated to receive anasset, such as a financial account, upon the death of the asset’s owner
Letters: The court document that is issued to a personal representative upon appointment and which the personal representative can use to verify their authority. May be called either Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration.
Creditors: Those seeking payment from an estate for amounts alleged to be owed
Non-Probate Assets: Assets of the decedent that do not become part of the probate estate and are not subject to distribution according to the will. This includes assets that are jointly owned and pass directly to the joint owner or assets with named death beneficiaries, which pass directly to the designated
Beneficiary/ Transfer on Death (TOD)Designee: An individual designated to receive an asset, such as a financial account, upon the death of the asset’s owner.These designations are made with the financial institution where the account or policy is held.