Have you ever looked at legal documentation and said to yourself “what does that word mean”? This is a list of some of the most common legal terms that someone may encounter and a description to go along with them. I hope you enjoy learning the meanings of words you may see in some of your legal documentation.

Affidavit: A statement that is written and sworn to under oath.

Ancillary Administration: Administration of a probate estate that occurs in a state other than a decedent’s state of residence. Ancillary administration is supplementary to the primary administration and generally required if a person owns real estate outside his or her state of residence.

Attorney-In-Fact: Someone that is named in a power of attorney document to act on behalf of someone else; also known as an agent.

Beneficiary: A person or organization that receives a distribution from a will or a trust.

Brief: A written summary of legal arguments in a case.

Capacity: The mental ability to make a rational decision.

Codicil: An amendment to a section of an existing will.

Conservator: A person or persons appointed by the court to protect and manage the financial affairs of a minor or of an adult who lacks mental or physical capacity to handle financial matters on their own.

Devisee: A person or organization that receives real or personal property under the terms of a will.

Durable Power of Attorney: A legal document that allows a named person to act on behalf of another person regarding financial decisions in the event that the person becomes unable to act for themselves.

Durable Power of Attorney Health Care: A legal document that allows a named person to act on behalf of another person regarding healthcare decisions in the event that the person becomes unable to act for themselves.

Ex-Parte: This refers to when only one party (not the opponent) appears before the judge.

Fiduciary: A person or organization that handles the management of property for an individual that needs assistance. The fiduciary has a duty to act in the best interest of the individual.

Grantee: A person that receives an asset from someone else.

Grantor: A person that transfers assets to someone else or to a trust.

Guardian: A person or persons appointed by a court to protect and manage the physical care of someone in need. The person that needs assistance is usually referred to as the ward.

Guardian Ad Litem (GAL): A person appointed by a court to represent the best interests of an incapacitated individual, a mentally incapacitated, or a minor in a court case.

Heir: A person who is entitled to receive the real or personal property of a person who dies intestate.

Incapacity: When someone lacks the ability to act on behalf of their own self.

Intestate: The term used when someone dies without a will.

Issue: A term that refers to all-natural born children and their natural born children down through the generations. Sometimes referred to as a “lineal descendant”.

Motion: A formal request made to a judge for a formal judgment or order from the court regarding a case.

Personal Representative: A person appointed by the probate court to carry out the terms of a decedent’s will; also referred to as an “administrator” or “executor”.

Petition: A formal written request to the court for a specific action to occur or an official order to be issued.

Probate Estate: A probate estate is typically opened when someone dies and owns property in his or her name alone, without a beneficiary designation or a surviving joint owner.

Residuary Estate: This is the leftover amount of a person’s assets once they pass away and all of the specific designations have been distributed to beneficiaries.

Revocable Living Trust: A trust that is created while a person is alive that can be changed. Also referred to as an “inter vivos trust”.

Special Needs Trust: A trust created for someone that has a physical or mental disability to hold assets for his or her benefit.

Specific Bequest: A specific item that is left to a specific beneficiary. For instance, you may want to leave your wedding ring to your eldest daughter.

Testamentary Trust: A trust that is created in the provision in a will.

Testate: A person who has signed a valid will is considered to have died testate.

Trust: A legal document that is created by a grantor during his or her lifetime to benefit individuals or organizations.

Trustee: The person or corporate fiduciary named in a trust to manage the assets owned by the trust and distribute any income or distributions according to the provision of the trust. Assets that pass by trust are not subject to probate administration.

Venue: The geographical limits of a court’s jurisdiction that usually falls within what county the matter (case) is located in.

Will: A legal document that is created during the life of the decedent that advises the decedent’s wishes upon death. A will can be revoked during the lifetime of the creator. Assets that pass by will are subject to probate administration.