Probate Terms

A probate case is a legal proceeding to administer the estate of a person who has died. There are common terms in probate cases that you should know. In this article, we will define some of these terms. The following is a list of the most commonly used terms in probate cases:


An administrator is a person appointed by the court to take over the affairs of someone who has died. The administrator of an estate is responsible for paying the deceased person’s debts. An estate can include bank accounts, investments and real property like a house. The administrator may be able to make cash payments to people who are owed money by the deceased person or sell assets belonging to the deceased person.


A beneficiary is the person or entity who receives the property of a decedent.


The term “decedent” refers to the person who has died.

Decedent’s Estate

The decedent’s estate is the property that the decedent owned in his or her name alone at the time of death (when a person dies, the property in his or her name alone passes to his or her heirs). The estate includes the property the decedent owned with someone else (joint tenancy), property he or she owned with right of survivorship.


An executor is a person appointed by a will to administer the estate of the deceased. The executor is also called the personal representative of the estate.

File Petition for Probate

This is the same as filing an application for probate.


An heir is a person or entity who, under the law of intestacy, is entitled to the property of a decedent. If a person dies without leaving a will, he or she is said to have died “intestate”.

Heir Property

An heir property is a home that was willed or passed on to an individual through the process of intestacy.

Holographic Will

A holographic will is a will that is handwritten by the testator, or testatrix, and signed by the testator. A holographic will need not be in the handwriting of the testator, although it almost always is.


The law of intestacy applies when someone dies without leaving a Will. It tells you who gets their assets and how the estate is distributed, depending on the deceased’s relationship with family members.

Intestate Succession

If you die without leaving a Will, known as dying intestate, your estate will be distributed according to the law. In most cases, this means that your assets will be divided amongst your spouse or partner and children. However, if you are not married or in a civil partnership, then it is possible that your assets will go to someone else.

Living Trust

A living trust is an arrangement by which a person, called the grantor, transfers title to some or all of his or her real estate and personal property to another person, called the trustee. A living trust also allows you to appoint someone to manage your assets if you become incapacitated. The grantor remains the owner of property and can revoke or change the terms of a trust at any time.

Personal Property

Personal property, or property that is not real estate, refers to objects that you own personally. Personal property may also be referred to as chattel, or moveable property. Property is any physical object that is not real estate (land and the buildings on it). Personal property includes items such as cars, motorbikes, boats, stocks and shares. Real estate (also called realty) refers to land and everything attached to it. This includes buildings, trees and other structures.

Personal Representative

The Personal Representative is a person who’s appointed by the court to administer the estate of someone who has passed away. The executor has to carry out all of the deceased’s last wishes and settle their debts, as well as distribute their assets among the beneficiaries.


Probate is the court-supervised process of distributing a deceased person’s assets, paying debts owed by the deceased, and settling the financial affairs of the estate.

Probate Court

Probate court is a court that handles matters related to the estate of a deceased person. Probate courts have jurisdiction over the estates of deceased persons. Even though it is called probate court, the court can oversee matters related to estates that are not probated.

Real Property

Real property includes land and anything permanently attached to the land, like buildings and fixtures. Examples include a house, general store and barn.


The word “successor” is a key word in probate law. It is often used in the context of determining whether a particular individual is a “successor in interest” to an estate or trust. “Successor in interest” is a legal term that refers to an individual who takes over or inherits property, assets, or debts of another after they die.


A testator is a person who makes a will. A testate estate is an estate in which the deceased has left a will. The opposite of a testator is an intestate, somebody who dies without making a will.


A trust is an arrangement in which one person, called a trust maker (grantor, settlor), gives money or property to another person, called a trustee, to hold and manage for the benefit of a third person, called a beneficiary. A trust is a legal relationship that exists when property (normally land, but also including money, good or chattels) is held by one person for the benefit of another.

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Related Questions

Will terminology explained?

The word “will” has many meanings, and is used in many different ways. It is important to know the meaning of the word when reading legal documents, because it is used in many different ways. In law, “will” is one of the most important words you can read. It is what people use to say what they want done with their property after they die. The documents that are used to do this are called wills or testaments, or sometimes just ‘testamentary instruments’.

How do you use probate in a sentence?

Probate can refer to the legal process of transferring a deceased person’s property to his or her heirs, or it can be used in reference to the formal action taken by someone who has already gone through that process. “After his father’s death, William inherited the house and car through probate.” Or “William probated his father’s will.”

What are the main steps in estate planning?

Estate planning is the process by which you make decisions about what will happen to your property after your death and make arrangements for your final wishes to be carried out. An estate plan is a set of legal documents, like a will and trusts, that help you make decisions about what happens to your property after death.

What genealogical information does a typical probate file contain?

Probate files contain a variety of information. Probate files date back to the Roman Empire, but were not widely used in the United States until after colonial times. Probate records are a great source for genealogical research because they often include information such as birth dates, marriage dates and death dates of individuals; names of heirs; relationships between heirs; guardianship information; and real estate transactions.

What happens during probate?

Probate is a legal process that allows family members to manage the assets of a loved one who has passed away. After someone dies, the executor of his or her estate must give certain information to the probate court in order to gain control of and distribute their assets. An executor can be a person or an organization and can be appointed either in the will or by the judge.

What is a petition for probate?

To begin the process of probate, the executor files a petition for probate with the probate court. This is also called a probate application.

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