Glossary of Terms Used in N.J. Wills
Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, New Jersey Last Will Attorney
Vocabulary words have meaning both in life and in the law. Below I have listed the most frequent terms used in this website and what each word means. The terms are listed in alphabetical order. I am certain this glossary will be of assistance to you in your reading.
If we at Hanlon Niemann & Wright can be of assistance to you now or in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me (855) 376-5291 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Bond – An insurance policy that protects the beneficiaries named in the will in the event that the executor wrongfully spends or distributes estate property.
- Codicil – A document that adds to, subtracts from, qualifies, modifies, revokes, or otherwise alters or explains an existing will.
- Decedent – A person who died with a Last Will.
- Descendants – Relatives with a direct blood line relationship following downwards from you, starting with your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, are called your lineal descendants. Descendants are those in a descending line of birth from an individual, rather than an ascending line, such as to the parents of the individual.
- Estate – Everything owned by you are the time of death, including personal belongings, real estate, savings, investments, life insurance, business interests, and employee benefits.
- Executor – The person named in you Last Will to be responsible for handling and distributing your estate according to your will; also called a “personal representative” or “administrator.”
- Executorship – A legal relationship created when a court appoints someone executor of an estate.
- Fiduciary – A person to whom property or power is entrusted for the benefit of another.
- Fiduciary Duty – A legal duty to act in the best interests of a person.
- Guardian – A person named in a will to have physical and legal custody of a person in the event of the testator’s death.
- Guardianship – A legal relationship created when a court grants physical and legal custody of a person to another person or entity; also called a “conservatorship.”
- Heir/Heirs at law – Persons who inherit property by law, rather than under a will, pursuant to the Rules of Descent and Distribution (intestate Succession). This occurs when someone dies without a will or with a will that does not name any living beneficiaries.
- Inter Vivos – Latin for “between the living” and it refers to something done while you are still alive. The following is an example of where you might commonly see this language used in a will or other estate planning document: “I give my red car to my sister, if she survives me. However, if I no longer have my red car for any reason other than an inter vivos gift to my sister – i.e. having already given her my red car when I was alive – I give her whatever vehicle I have when I die instead.”
- Intestate – A person who dies either (1) without a will or (2) with a will that names only beneficiaries who have predeceased the decedent.
- Issue – A decedent’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., to the remotest degree.
- Jurisdiction – The court’s power to hear a case.
- Legitimation – An act that gives the status of legitimacy to a child born to unmarried parents, such as subsequent marriage of the parents, paternity proceeding, or adoption.
- Per Capita – Each beneficiary takes in equal shares, regardless of whether they are in the same group.
- Personal Representative – see “Executor.”
- Per Stirpes – Each person in a group or class (i.e. children, grandchildren) takes in equal shares.
- Pretermitted – An heir who was born after a will was drafted, but before the death of the testator.
- Probate – The method by which the decedent’s estate is administered and processed through the legal system after they have died. The N.J. Supreme Court oversees this process.
- Remainderman – A person who inherits or who is entitled to inherit property upon the happening of a specified event such as the death of a beneficiary.
- Residue/Residuary Estate/Remainder – The part of a decedent’s estate remaining after all debt, expenses, taxes and specific bequests (gifts) have been satisfied.
- Situs – The place where the property is located for legal purposes.
- Testamentary Trust – A trust listed in the will that begins after the testator’s death and uses the testator’s assets, which are managed by a trustee, to provide financially for the testator’s ward(s) until the trust expires and/or all funds have been distributed.
- Testator – A person who has made a legally binding last will and testament. After the testator dies, he or she is commonly referred to as the “decedent” or “deceased.”
- Trustee – The person or entity appointed to oversee the day-to-day management of property owned by a trust.
- Ward – A minor child or incapacitated adult of whom a guardian has custody.
- Will – A legal document that provides specific instructions for how the testator’s assets should be distributed, names an executor, names the guardian(s) of any ward(s) of the testator, and sets forth any other final wishes of the testator; also referred to as a “Last Will and Testament.”
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