Many Americans do not have an estate plan in place despite acknowledging the need for one. Often, this boils down to the fact that creating an estate plan for the first time can be intimidating. To help you feel more comfortable with the idea of creating your estate plan, the Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Schomer Law Group, APC explain common estate planning terms.
- Administrator. A person named by the court to represent a probate estate when there is no Will, or the Will did not name an executor. Female is administratrix. Also called a Personal Representative in some states.
- Annual Exclusion. The amount you can give someone each year without having to file a gift tax return or pay a gift tax. As of 2022, $15,000 per recipient ($30,000 if married). The amount of tax-free gifts is tied to inflation and may increase from time to time. Gifts made using the annual exclusion do not count against your lifetime exemption.
- Beneficiary. A person who will receive the benefit of property from an estate or trust through the right to receive a bequest or to receive income or trust principal over time.
- Conservator. In most states, an individual or a corporate fiduciary appointed by a court to care for and manage the property of an incapacitated person. Some states use the term “Guardian of the Estate” instead of Conservator.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. A legal document that lets you give someone else the authority to make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them for yourself. Also called a health care proxy or medical power of attorney.
- Descendants. An individual’s children, grandchildren, and more remote persons who are related by blood or because of legal adoption.
- Durable Power of Attorney. A power of attorney that does not terminate upon the incapacity of the person making the power of attorney.
- Estate. Assets and debts left by an individual at death.
- Estate Taxes. Federal and/or state taxes on the value of assets left at death.
- Executor. A person or institution named in a Will to carry out its instructions. Female is executrix.
- Fiduciary. A person having the legal duty to act primarily for another’s benefit. Implies great confidence and trust, and a high degree of good faith.
- Grantor. A person, including a Testator, who creates, or contributes property to, a trust. May also be called a Settlor, Trustor, or Maker.
- Guardian. An individual or bank or trust company appointed by a court to act for a minor or incapacitated person (the “ward”).
- Heir. An individual entitled to a distribution of an asset or property interest under applicable state law in the absence of a Will.
- Intestate. When one dies without a valid Will, such that the decedent’s estate is distributed in accordance with a state’s intestacy law.
- Living Trust. A written legal document that creates an entity to which you transfer ownership of your assets. Avoids probate at death and court control of assets at incapacity. A trust created during one’s lifetime.
- Living Will. A written document that states you do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means when the illness or injury is terminal.
- Medicaid. A federally funded health care program for low-income individuals, families, aged, and disabled.
- Medicare. A federally funded health care program, primarily for Americans over age 65 who are covered by Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits.
- Per Capita. A way of distributing your estate so that your surviving descendants will share equally, regardless of their generation.
- Per Stirpes. A way of distributing your estate so that your surviving descendants will receive only what their immediate ancestor would have received if he/she had been living at your death.
- Power of Attorney. A legal document giving someone legal authority to sign your name on your behalf in your absence. Ends at incapacity (unless it is a durable power of attorney) or death.
- Probate. The legal process of validating a Will, paying debts, and distributing assets after death.
- Testamentary Trust. A trust activated by a provision in a Will. Can only go into effect at death. Does not avoid probate.
- Trustee. Person or institution who manages and distributes another’s assets according to the instructions in the trust document.
- Will. Formally referred to as a “Last Will and Testament.” A written document with instructions for disposing of assets after death. A Will can only be enforced through the probate court.
Contact Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, contact the experienced Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Schomer Law Group APC by calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.