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The Dean Law Firm Blog

Thursday, September 29, 2022

What’s in a Name? Will and Probate Legal Terms Explained

When I assist my clients with their estate plan or a probate, I am often asked what a word means in “plain English”. Reading your Will shouldn’t require you to have a legal education, so below I’ve defined common legal terms used in Wills or probate in “plain English”.

  • Per Stirpes – a Latin phrase referring to the distribution of your estate if one of your beneficiaries, such as a child, predeceases you. Per stirpes means that the deceased child’s share will be distributed equally to their children or descendants.
  • Pro Rata – a Latin phrase referring to the distribution of your estate if one of your beneficiaries, such as a child, predeceases you. Pro rata means that your deceased child’s share will not be distributed to their children, but to the surviving members of a class (such as brothers or sisters).
  • Fiduciary – a person with the duty of utmost care to manage money or property on behalf of someone else. The Fiduciary standard applies to an Executor or Administrator, a Trustee, or an Agent under Durable Power of Attorney.
  • Executor/Administrator – A person appointed by a Court to take charge of a probate estate, pay the debts, and distribute the assets to the beneficiaries. Generally, an Executor is named when someone died with a Will, and an Administrator is named when someone died without a Will.
  • Probate – The legal process of transferring a deceased person’s assets from the deceased person’s name to their beneficiaries under Will or to their legal heirs.
  • Muniment of Title – A Texas-specific “quick probate” that allows a Will to be probated without additional administration after the probate hearing. Used to transfer real property in Texas when there are no debts of the Estate.
  • In Terrorem Clause/No Contest Clause – a clause in your Will that states if a beneficiary challenges or contests the Will, then they will forfeit their share of the Will.
  • Spendthrift Provision – a clause in your Will that provides if you leave a beneficiary’s share in trust, then that beneficiary’s inheritance cannot be attacked or accessed by creditors of that beneficiary.
  • Trust/Trustee – a Trust is an entity created to hold money or property for the benefit of another person. A Trustee is a person who manages the property in the Trust for the benefit of another person.

If you have questions about your Will or a probate, you should speak with an experienced estate planning or probate attorney.

Julia “Jules” Pullin is an attorney at The Dean Law Firm, PLLC, a boutique law firm practicing in estate planning, probate, guardianships, and elder law. Julia Dean, the managing attorney, has been recognized as a Top Attorney and Leading Advisor by Acquisition International, Forbes, Newsweek, H Texas, Houstonia, and the Sugar Land Sun, and has earned Martindale-Hubbell’s Client Distinction Award. The Dean Law Firm, PLLC, has been named “Reader’s Choice for Attorneys in Fort Bend County by Living Magazine, “Texas’ Most Outstanding Estate Planning Boutique” by Acquisition International and is “Best Law Firm of the Year” by Lawyer International Legal 100.

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