Estate Planning Terms Explained

Coral Gables estate planning attorney

Estate Planning Terms

Having at least a basic estate plan in place is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to yourself and to your loved ones. Despite acknowledging the importance of estate planning, many Americans do not have a plan. One explanation often provided for the lack of a plan is that estate planning can be intimidating and confusing. Learning some of the basic terms used in estate planning can help remove both of those obstacles. With that in mind, the Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law explain some common estate planning terms you should know.

  • Administrator –Person named by the court to represent a probate estate when there is no Will or the Will did not name an executor. Female is administratrix. Also called a Personal Representative in some states.
  • Annual Exclusion — Amount you can give someone each year without having to file a gift tax return or pay a gift tax. As of 2021 you may gift $15,000 per recipient ($30,000 if married). Gifts made using the annual exclusion do not count against your lifetime exemption.
  • Beneficiary – A person who will receive the benefit of property from an estate or trust through the right to receive a bequest or to receive income or trust principal over a period of time.
  • Conservator – In most states, an individual or a corporate fiduciary appointed by a court to care for and manage the property of an incapacitated person.
  • Conservatorship — A court-controlled program for persons who are unable to manage their own affairs due to mental or physical incapacity. May also be called a guardianship.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care — A legal document that lets you give someone else the authority to make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them for yourself. Also called a health care proxy or medical power of attorney.
  • Durable Power of Attorney – A power of attorney that does not terminate upon the incapacity of the person making the power of attorney.
  • Estate — Assets and debts left by an individual at death.
  • Estate Taxes — Federal or state taxes on the value of assets left at death.
  • Executor – A person or institution named in a Will to carry out its instructions.
  • Fiduciary—A person or entity (such as a bank) having the legal duty to act primarily for another’s benefit.
  • Grantor – A person, including a Testator, who creates, or contributes property to, a trust. May also be called a Settlor, Trustor, or Maker.
  • Guardian – An individual or bank or trust company appointed by a court to act for a minor or incapacitated person (the “ward”).
  • Heir — An individual entitled to a distribution of an asset or property interest under applicable state law in the absence of a Will.
  • Intestate – When one dies without a valid Will, such that the decedent’s estate is distributed in accordance with a state’s intestacy law.
  • Last Will and Testament — A written document with instructions for disposing of assets after death. A Will can only be enforced through the probate court.
  • Living Trust — A written legal document that creates an entity to which you transfer ownership of your assets. Avoids probate at death and court control of assets at incapacity. A trust created during one’s lifetime.
  • Living Will — A written document that states you do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means when the illness or injury is terminal.
  • Marital Deduction — A deduction on the federal estate tax return that lets the first spouse to die leave an unlimited amount of assets to the surviving spouse free of estate taxes.
  • Per Capita — A way of distributing your estate so that your surviving descendants will share equally, regardless of their generation.
  • Per Stirpes — A way of distributing your estate so that your surviving descendants will receive only what their immediate ancestor would have received if he/she had been living at your death.
  • Pour Over Will — A Pour-Over Will is often used with a living trust. It states that any assets left out of your living trust will become part of (pour over into) your living trust upon your death.
  • Power of Attorney — A legal document giving someone legal authority to sign your name on your behalf in your absence. Ends at incapacity (unless it is a durable power of attorney) or death.
  • Probate — The legal process of validating a Will, paying debts, and distributing assets after death.
  • Special Needs Trust — Allows you to provide for a disabled loved one without interfering with government benefits.
  • Testamentary Trust — A trust activated by a provision in a Will that goes into effect at death. Does not avoid probate.
  • Trustee — Person or institution who manages and distributes another’s assets according to the instructions in the trust document.

Contact Our Coral Gables Estate Planning Attorney

For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, contact our experienced Coral Gables estate planning attorney at Stivers Law by calling (305) 456-3255 to schedule an appointment.

Author Bio

Justin Stivers is the founder and managing attorney of Stivers Law, an estate planning firm specializing in wills, probate, trust administration, and financial risk management services. Justin’s approach goes beyond just creating legal documents. From aligning investments with estate plans to ensuring comprehensive insurance coverage, he safeguards a client’s legacy from unforeseen circumstances. His commitment extends beyond individual transactions, fostering lifelong partnerships to provide ongoing support and guidance.

With an impressive track record, Justin is licensed by the Florida and the Tennessee State Bars. His professional portfolio boasts Series 65 registration as a Registered Investment Advisor, the Wealth Management Specialist™ designation, and a 2-15 License for Health, Life, and Annuities. His dedication to excellence has earned him positions like Board Member of the Estate Planning Council of Greater Miami, Business Eagle Member of the Florida Justice Association, and active membership in esteemed organizations like the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

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