Silicon Valley is famous for creating its tech-centric vocabulary. But the estate planning vernacular makes tech seem simple. When I see new clients for an initial estate planning session, it often feels like I am a translator working to interpret a foreign language, not an attorney trying to help a person through one of life’s most essential processes. While everyone should engage in the estate planning process, I am often struck by how opaque the terminology involved in estate planning can be—decedent, executor, fiduciary. But these are important terms and using them precisely is essential to creating a lasting, comprehensive estate plan. To achieve that goal, you will need the help of an experienced estate planning attorney who can not only interpret these terms for you but also put them to use to protect your assets.

If you have questions about incentive trusts or any other area of estate planning, call experienced Bay Area attorney Linda J. MacKay today at (408) 379-9600. Linda is standing by to help you draft your estate planning documents or to help you through estate administration.

Common Estate Planning and Estate Administration Terms

Decedent: This is the person who has died. The same term is used regardless of whether the person is male or female.

Beneficiary: This is a person who is designated by a decedent to receive any benefit.
Intestacy Statute: This is a state law that designates who will receive a benefit from a decedent if the decedent does not otherwise choose how his or her assets should be distributed. For example, a spouse would be designated as a decedent’s beneficiary in the absence of any will. If there is no spouse, a decedent’s child would be selected.

Heir: An heir is a person who usually would inherit a benefit from a decedent under an intestate statute. But just because someone would customarily be an heir does not mean he or she will receive any benefit. While an heir may receive a benefit automatically if a beneficiary has not left a will, they can “written out of the will” and not be a beneficiary. This person would be called an heir, but not a beneficiary.

Probate: This is a legal process where the state court reviews a decedent’s will, if one exists, and makes sure that all assets are distributed according to that will. Additionally, the probate process assures that all debts, taxes, and bills are paid before any asset distribution. The probate process also distributes assets and pays debts, taxes, and bills for decedents who die without a will.

Probate Property: This is the property that is described by a decedent’s will it will be distributed through the probate process.

Non-Probate Property: This property that is not described by a decedent’s will. This property passes according to the Intestacy Statute through the probate process.

Executor/Executrix: The executor/trix must gather all of the decedent’s assets, pay all debts, and distribute property per the will. An executor is male, and an executrix is female.

Administrator/ Administratrix: There is no difference in the duties between an executor/trix and an administrator/trix except that the latter designation applies when a decedent denies without a will. An administrator/trix pays debts and distributes assets according to the intestacy statute.

If You Need Estate Planning Help, Call Linda J. MacKay Today

The estate planning process does not have to be like reading a menu in a foreign country. With an experienced estate planning attorney as your guide, you can draft estate planning tools that will direct distribution of your assets according to your wishes and in a way that avoids unnecessary taxes and delay. Attorney MacKay has the experience to help you through this challenge and to guide you around pitfalls that snare people who try to handle these issues alone.

Contact the Law Offices of Linda J. MacKay today at (408) 379-9600. The Law Offices of Linda J. MacKay is here you and your family with your important estate planning legal questions.