Probate and Estate Administration Definitions
The Texas Probate system uses some unique terminology. To help you understand the processes a little better, here is a list of some of the more common terms and their definitions:
Administration: The process by which the assets and property of an estate are collected and gathered, the debts, taxes and costs are paid, and the remaining assets and properties are distributed.
Administrator: The person(s) appointed by a Court to manage the assets and liabilities of an estate if someone dies without a valid Will or without appointed executors or if the appointed executors are unwilling or unable to serve.
Beneficiary: The person(s) who ultimately receives assets and/or property from someone.
Bequest: A term sometimes used to describe a gift given in a Will.
Codicil: A separate document used to amend the terms of an existing Will.
County Court at Law: A specific Court in smaller counties that has jurisdiction over probate, guardianship and mental health cases.
Decedent: An individual who has died, sometimes referred to as the "deceased".
Descendant: A term sometimes used to describe a relative (whether by blood or adoption) in a direct line downward, such as a child, grandchild, great grandchild, etc.
Descent: A term sometimes used to describe an inheritance from someone who did not have a Will, or whose Will was incomplete.
Determination of Heirship: The official determination by which a Court determines who the heirs of a decedent are.
Devise: A term sometimes used to describe a gift given in a Will.
Estate: All of the assets and property of a person at the time of death.
Estate Taxes: The taxes imposed on the transfer of assets during the probate process.
Executor: The person(s) appointed by a Will to handle the affairs of an estate.
General Bequest: A term sometimes used to describe a gift of money given in a Will.
Heirs: The person(s) legally entitled to all or a portion of an estate of a person who dies without a Will, or whose Will was incomplete.
Intestate / Intestacy: A term used to describe a situation where someone dies without a Will.
Letters of Administration: A formal document issued by a Court showing the authority of the appointed Administrator(s) to act on behalf of and estate.
Letters Testamentary: A formal document issued by a Court showing the authority of the appointed Executor(s) to act of behalf of an estate.
Living Trust: A trust created and administered during a person's lifetime.
Muniment of Title: A type of Probate process that passes the assets and properties of an estate pursuant to a Will without the need for a formal administration.
Personal Representative: A general term sometimes used to describe Administrators and Executors.
Probate: The official confirmation by a Court of the validity of a Will and the appointment of an Executor or Administrator.
Pour-Over Will: A specific type of Will that leaves all of a person's assets and property to a Trust.
Probate Court: A specific Court in larger counties that has dominant jurisdiction over all matters of probate, guardianship, and mental health cases.
Residuary Beneficiary: A person(s) named in a Will to receive the residue of an estate.
Residue: The remainder of an estate after all specific bequests, general bequests, liabilities, taxes, and costs have been met.
Specific Bequest: A gift of a particular item (not money) given in a Will.
Testamentary Trust: A type of trust created by the terms of a Will and only administered after their death.
Testator / Testatrix: The person making the Will (male/female).
Trust: An arrangement (usually based on a written document) under which one or more persons, called a Trustee(s), holds and administers assets and property for the benefit of others, called Beneficiaries
Will: The legal instrument that permits a person, the testator, to make decisions on how his or her estate will be managed and distributed after death.
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