Randi Newbery, Estate Planning Lawyer, Livingston, New Jersey (Essex County), (973) 992-5034  
A Wealth of Experience, a Record of Results

Estate Planning, Probate, and Estate Administration Glossary

Here are brief definitions of some of the words related to the processes of Estate Planning, Probate, and Estate Administration. If you need more information or help with estate planning, probating a will, or administering an estate, you can reach attorney Randi Newbery at 973-992-5034.

Administrator or Administratrix:

A man or woman appointed by the Surrogate to manage and distribute the Estate of a Decedent who dies without a Will. Also known as a Personal Representative.

Beneficiary:

A person or organization designated to receive money, property, or benefits.

Bequest:

A gift of personal property by a Will.

Bequeath:

To leave money, property, or one's body to a person or organization.

Caveat:

A formal notice filed with the Surrogate's office to prevent the proving of a Will or the grant of administration of an estate.

Codicil:

An additional supplement to an original Will that adds to or deletes only part of a Will.

Contractual Assets:

Property that passes to a specific person or persons outside of the terms of the Last Will and Testament by operation of law. Contractual assets are distributed according to the terms of a contractual agreement such as a bank account or brokerage account that is payable on the decedent's death to a specific person, or a life insurance policy payable to a specific beneficiary.

Credit Shelter Trust:

A strategic estate planning opportunity for married couples with taxable estates in excess of the federal estate tax exemption amount (currently in excess of $5 million) where assets equal to the amount that may be sheltered are placed into a Credit Shelter Trust. This planning option is usually employed along with a Marital Trust. The Credit Shelter Trust is also called a Unified Credit Trust or Bypass Trust.

Decedent:

A person who has died.

Devise:

A gift, usually of real estate, by the terms of a Will.

Disclaimer Trust:

A strategy in an estate plan for married couples who are New Jersey residents that can protect up to $675,000 plus future growth on those assets.

Domestic Partner:

A person who is in a New Jersey registered domestic partnership.

Donor:

See Grantor.

Estate:

All of the money and property owned by a person as well as liabilities due at the time of his death.

Executor or Executrix:

A man or woman named in a Will to carry out the terms of the decedent's Will, also known as a Personal Representative. He or she is responsible for locating the decedent's assets, paying the decedent's bills and the estate's expenses, filing appropriate income, inheritance, and estate tax returns, distributing assets to beneficiaries, and completing an estate accounting. The executor has control over probate assets only. Non-probate assets and contractual assets are treated differently.

Grantor (Settlor, Donor):

The Grantor is the person who creates a Trust by a written document. He or she transfers assets into the trust, which is administered by a Trustee. The assets of the trust belong to the trust beneficiaries.

Guardian:

The person named in the decedent's Last Will and Testament to care for the decedent's minor children or a mentally or physically disabled adult. It is possible in New Jersey to name one person as guardian of the children or disabled person, and another as guardian to manage the money and property.

Heir:

A person who inherits property from a deceased person.

Inter Vivos Trust:

See Revocable Trust

Intestate:

A person who dies without having made a Will.

Irrevocable Trust:

With an irrevocable trust, the Grantor transfers assets (for example, real estate, jewelry, cash or bonds, life insurance policy) to a trust. Created during his or her lifetime, the terms of this trust cannot be modified, amended, changed or revoked by the person who created it. An irrevocable trust is often used to achieve estate planning goals, such as reducing estate taxes by removing assets or life insurance from the estate.

Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship:

Two or more persons owning real estate or bank or brokerage accounts where the survivor will inherit the property.

Legatee:

Anyone who receives real or personal property under a Will.

Lien:

A charge upon property, real or personal, for the satisfaction of a debt.

Living Trust:

See Revocable Trust

Marital Trust:

A strategic estate planning opportunity for married couples who have taxable estates in excess of the federal estate tax exemption amount whereby assets that are not sheltered by the Credit Shelter Trust are placed into a Marital Trust. The Marital Trust planning option is usually employed along with a Credit Shelter Trust.

Memorandum:

New Jersey statute permits the incorporation of a separate list or memorandum in a Last Will and Testament to dispose of certain types of tangible personal property. Consult your attorney.

Probate Assets:

Property that passes to a beneficiary outside of the terms of the Last Will and Testament by operation of law. Examples include jointly held assets, such as bank accounts, brokerage accounts, or real property held by joint tenancy.

Personal Property:

Tangible property such as jewelry, furniture, or cars and intangible property such as stocks, bonds, or bank accounts.

Personal Representative:

See Administrator or Administratrix (if appointed by the Surrogate) or Executor or Executrix (if named in the Will).

Probate:

Official proof of authenticity or validity of a Will.

Probate Assets:

Property that passes to beneficiaries according to the terms of the decedent's Last Will and Testament. Probate assets can include property such as stocks and bonds, real property, cash, cars, jewelry, and collectibles -- assets other than contractual assets and non-probate assets.

Real Property:

Land and buildings.

Residuary:

A devise or bequest of the decedent's probate assets that is not left to a person or entity by specific bequest.

Revocable Trust (also called Living Trust, Inter Vivos Trust):

Created during a person's lifetime, this trust does not remove the asset from the Grantor's estate. The terms of this trust may be modified, amended, changed or revoked at any time. The trust may provide for the grantor's needs during his or her lifetime and then, after death, will be distributed to or for specific beneficiaries. This kind of trust is often used to avoid probate and to allow for efficient distribution of assets after death.

Settlor:

See Grantor.

Specific Bequest:

A specific gift of property to a person or entity such as cash to a grandchild or stocks or artwork to a charity.

Surrogate:

The elected county official who oversees probate in the State of New Jersey.

Tax Clause Options:

Unless otherwise directed in the decedent's Will, New Jersey statute provides that probate assets will have the New Jersey Estate Tax paid out of the residuary estate. Non probate assets and contractual assets that pass outside the decedent's Last Will and Testament will bear a pro rata share of the New Jersey Estate Tax. Under current law, the New Jersey Inheritance Tax may be recovered from the person who inherits the money or property. Alternatively, the decedent may change that result in his Last Will and Testament and, instead, charge all death taxes on the probate and non-probate property to the residuary estate, with several exceptions. Consult your attorney.

Tenants in Common:

Two or more persons owning undivided individual interests in a single piece of property.

Tenants by the Entirety:

Property owned as husband and wife with rights of survivorship.

Testamentary Trust:

This kind of trust is established in a Will. It becomes effective when the Testator dies and the Will is probated. A Testamentary Trust becomes irrevocable upon death. It differs from an "inter vivos" or "living" trust, which comes into being during the lifetime of the trust Settlor/Grantor.

Testator or Testatrix:

The person who makes a Will.

Trust:

A legal entity created by a grantor for the benefit of a beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries under New Jersey state law. The trust is administered by the trustee for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

Trustee:

The Trustee holds legal title to trust assets for the benefit of trust beneficiaries. The trustee owes a fiduciary duty to the trust beneficiaries and is required to act for their benefit. He or she is responsible for the management and protection of a trust's assets as well as complying with the intent of the decedent or the trust's grantor.

Will:

A legal declaration of the manner in which a person wishes his or her estate to be divided after death.

Witness:

A person who is present at the signing of a Will or Codicil and attests to the signature of the Testator or Testatrix.