Probate Terms You Must Know – A Basic Probate Glossary

The probate process isn’t known for being easy to understand, or gentle on someone who might be going through a rough time. Just trying to get advice or help online can be a real challenge if you don’t know the terms that apply to the probate process. Without insight into this jargon you’re left grasping at straws when you try to sort things out.
Your online dictionaryresearch into the probate process, Contra Costa county business attorneys, and everything else you’ll need to know to make this difficult time easier is available in this simple glossary.



Administrator (-trix
This refers to someone appointed by the court to carry out estate proceedings in the event that there is no Will. Administrator is a man, and Administratrix is a woman, but the job is the same.


Someone who will receive benefit from the estate. They don’t have to be related to the decedent, they simply have to be named in the Will.


The Conservator is someone who is placed in financial or legal control of someone’s estate and/or finances when that person becomes unable to care for these matters themselves. There are degrees of Conservatorship, ranging from only large decisions down to the day to day spending of money. Conservators have to be subject to a court to prevent them from abusing their position.


Someone whose care is provided for thanks to a conservatorship. Their affairs are managed for their benefit because they are legally unable to do so for themselves.


Custodian of the Will
This refers to the person who has the Will once it’s been officially witnessed and becomes legally binding. Most often the custodian of the Will is the trust attorney, business attorney, or estate planning attorney who drafted it.


This simply means the person who died. In terms of settling John Smith’s estate after his death, John Smith would be referred to in legal documents as the decedent.


When there is a Will there’s no reason for the court to appoint an Administrator or Administratrix. Will’s typically say who’s supposed to be the Executor. It typically is also the trust attorney, business attorney, or estate planning attorney who attended the drafting and documentation, but it doesn’t have to be. Anyone competent in a court of law can be named an Executor. Aside from attorneys, people often choose adult children or spouses to be their Executor.


The heir is the one who inherits. Traditionally this is expected to be the child of the decedent or their spouse, but it doesn’t have to be.


When someone dies without leaving a Will, their estate becomes intestate. A lot of thorny problems can come from intestate estates. Even people of modest means who feel they don’t need an elaborate Will would still do well to consult an estate planning attorney once or twice to make sure that their Wills are in order and their heirs are spared the problem of intestate estates.


Intestate Succession
This refers to the order of who inherits property when the decedent did not leave a Will. This can be a complicated legal question if there are multiple ex-spouses (even in addition to a current spouse) or there are many children to consider.


Legatees, or Devisees
People who are named in the Will. They have an interest in the estate, but they don’t have to be heirs or beneficiaries.


The process of settling a decedent’s estate even with a Will. This process covers where, how, and to whom property (including real estate) should go.


Real Property
This is the term used for real estate, as opposed to other assets in a Will.


A trust is a legal situation where a Trustee holds property for the benefit of the Beneficiary at request of the Settlor (the person whose property it was when this began.) It’s a great way to preserve and manage assets.