A Glossary Of Terms For A Will

Wills and trusts are both tools of an estate planner, but they are not the same things. When you talk to an estate planner, it is a good idea to be familiar with the basic language used to create a will.


If a person dies without a will, then the probate court will appoint an administrator to the estate. The process for assigning an administrator varies from region to region.


Personal belongings and financial resources for a person that are distributed after there death through the use of a will.


Any individual or entity who receives benefits from a will. A beneficiary can be a person of any age and of any relationship to the deceased. If the deceased wants to have some of their assets distributed to people outside of their immediate family, then they must have a will in place.

Community Property

Community property is anything purchased during a marriage that automatically becomes property of the husband and the wife. If one spouse puts community property in their will, they can only give away their half of the property.

Debt Provisions

The portion of your will that allows you to collect debt from a beneficiary and distribute that debt to your other beneficiaries. For example, if you leave $1,000 to your brother but he owes you $300, then your brother would get $700 and the other beneficiaries would get the $300 split evenly between them.


The person you name in your will to become the one responsible for acting as the representative for your estate to the courts. A person named to be an executor is not necessarily accepted from the start as being the official representative. The courts have to approve the executor before any proceedings can begin.


The person a deceased parent nominates to care for the children they leave behind. If there is a living spouse who is the other parent of the children, then that spouse is normally nominated to be the guardian. But in some cases, there could be another person nominated that could trigger a custody battle.

Holographic Will

A holographic will is a handwritten document that is signed by the deceased and entered into probate as the official will. Some states do not recognize holographic wills. Even in the states that recognize these types of wills, it can be difficult to get a holographic will to pass probate.

Living Will

This is an official document that indicates the person's preferences in emergency medical situations. Many people think that this term refers to a verbal will that is not captured in writing, but that is not the case.

When you are preparing to get your will done by an estate planning expert, you should come prepared to answer a lot of very important questions. By understanding the basic language of the will, you can help give your estate planner the information they need to put your last wishes into a legal format.

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