Probate Glossary of Terms

Administrator - Someone appointed by the Clerk of Superior Court to settle the estate of a person who left no will. Administrators are issued “Letters of Administration” by the Clerk of Superior Court.

Beneficiary - A person who inherits when there is a will.
Clerk of Superior Court– One who has jurisdiction over the probate of wills and the administration and settlement of estates. He or she is an office of the court and one exists in each county.

Creditor - The person or entity that is owed a debt.

Decedent – An individual who has died. A decedent’s estate is the real and Personal Property that an individual owned at his or her death.

Devisee - a person who receives a gift of real property by a will.

Estate Tax - generally a federal tax on the transfer of a dead person’s assets to his heirs and beneficiaries.

Executor - Someone appointed by the Clerk of Superior Court to settle the estate of a person according to his or her will. Executors are issued “Letters Testamentary” by the Clerk of Superior Court.

Gross Estate - All the real and personal property owned by a decedent at the time of his or her death. This includes household furnishings, deposit accounts, life insurance, and real estate.

Heir - An individual who receives an interest in, or ownership of, land, tenements, or hereditaments from an ancestor who has died intestate, through the laws of intestate succession.

Intestate - A person who dies without making a valid will or the reference made to this condition.

Intestate succession - The order of who inherits the property when the decedent does not have a will.

Legatees, or Devisees People who are named in a will.

Non-Probate Assets - These are assets that aren’t subject to administration by the personal representative. They are assets in which the title has already been transferred within a decedent’s lifetime, or assets in which the transfer of title is controlled by some sort of survivorship mechanism or named beneficiaries. These assets are not probated, meaning that they are not distributed according to the decedent’s will in probate court.

Personal Representative - The executor or administrator is the personal representative. This is the person appointed by the Clerk of Superior Court to represent the decedent and settle his or her estate.

Probate - The court process by which a will is proved valid or invalid and the legal process wherein the estate of a decedent is administered. The clerk also appoints a personal representative of the estate during this process.

Probate Assets - Assets that are subject to administration by the personal representative. These are assets that an individual owns at his death in his sole name.   Probate assets do not have a survivorship feature that will control the disposition at death, so disposition of probate assets are determined by probate court and are usually divided as directed by the decedent’s will.  These also exclude assets with named beneficiaries.

Probate real estate sale - The transfer of legal title (ownership) of real property from the estate of the person who has died to his or her beneficiaries or to a buyer under the supervision of the Court.

Real Property - The term used to refer to real estate (land and buildings) in probate and trust sales.

Testate - To die with a valid will.

Trust - When a person (trustee) holds property at another person’s (Settlor’s) requests for the benefit of someone else (Beneficiary).

Will - A legal document that lists a person’s wishes about what will happen to his/her personal and real property after death.

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