When you walk into a Savannah estate planning lawyer’s office, you are going to hear some terms that are either completely new to you or that sound like something out of an old movie. It’s a good idea to have some understanding of these terms ahead of time so you don’t spend time doing anything other than what you hired the attorney to do.
That said, if you ever have any questions regarding terminology that you were unable to answer on your own, be sure to ask your Savannah estate planning attorney so you absolutely understand the choices you have and the decisions you’re making.
• Administration: This is the term used to refer to the process of settling an estate and includes a number of tasks ranging from doing an inventory of assets to distributing them according to the will or probate court’s instructions.
• Assets: Anything owned or controlled by a person that can be used to produce value. This might include, but is not limited to, real estate, vehicles, investments, life insurance, retirement accounts, and personal property.
• Beneficiary: A person named in an insurance policy, retirement account, will, trust or other legal document to receive ownership of the deceased’s assets.
• Bequest: A gift designated to go to a particular individual or group, usually designated in a will.
• Death Tax: A commonly-used term to refer to taxes imposed by the federal government that must be paid out of an estate. Also referred to as the Estate Tax.
• Guardian: The person appointed to take over custody of a minor child and/or the child’s property should the parents be killed or become incapacitated. Also, a person appointed to see to the health and safety of an incapacitated adult.
• Heir: Someone who is entitled to inherit from the deceased.
• Probate: The process of closing an estate through the courts that begins with the validation of the will and continues until the assets have been distributed.
• Trust: A method for legally holding and managing property for the benefit of another.
• Will: A legal document that provides instructions for how a person’s property should be distributed after his or her death.
It’s worth noting that estate planning terms DO change over time. What may have once been called an “administrator” may now be the “personal representative,” for example. Again, if you have any questions about the terminology being used, don’t hesitate to ask your Savannah estate planning lawyer for clarification for how terms are used in our state.