Will and Estate Definitions

Administration: Court proceeding to appoint a fiduciary, known as an administrator, when the deceased individual did not leave a last will and testament and left assets that were not otherwise provided for.

Bequeath: an interest in an estate passed by Will (as opposed to an intestate share).

Intestacy: when a decedent does not have a will. The laws of the State where s/he resided at death will govern the distribution of all assets that do not pass by operation of law (e.g. joint property) or by trust provisions.

Credit Shelter Trust: trust created under a will or trust that holds assets in trust for the benefit of the surviving spouse in order to utilize the deceased spouse’s credit against federal gift taxes and do not become assets of the surviving spouse’s estate. Upon death of surviving spouse, assets in the trust pass to others, e.g. children.

Decedent: person who is deceased.

Devise: an interest in real property passed by Will (as opposed to an intestate share)

Disclaimer: a formal written refusal by a person to accept an interest in property from an estate. Once disclaimed, the interest is treated as if there had never been a transfer to the person who made the disclaimer.

Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL): New York law governing Wills and Trusts

Executor: person who administers the estate of a decedent who left a Will.

Fiduciary: personal representative. Includes executors, administrators and trustees.

Legatee: a person who receives an interest in an estate by will.

Marital Deduction: the deduction from the value of the gross estate in an amount equal to the value of property that passes from the decedent to the surviving spouse. See also “QTIP” below.

Probate: administration of an estate where decedent left a Will which is filed in the Surrogate’s Court.

Probate Assets: assets that would have passed under a Will, which is basically all assets other than life insurance, assets that are jointly held with rights of survivorship, or assets that have a named a beneficiary.

QTIP: Qualified Terminable Interest Property: a transfer to a surviving spouse that qualifies for the marital deduction, but only gives the survivor the right to all income for life.

Right of Election: the minimum amount the surviving spouse is entitled to from the estate of the deceased spouse.

Testamentary Trust: a trust created in a Will or trust that becomes effective upon the death of an individual.