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Wills and Trusts Glossary


Administration - Administration is the proceeding in New York Surrogate's Courts to appoint a fiduciary to settle the estate of a deceased person who left no Will.

Administrator - An Administrator is a person appointed by a Surrogate's Court to settle the estate of a deceased person who left no Will.

Beneficiary - A beneficiary is a person or entity having the enjoyment of property of which a trustee, executor, or another person has legal possession.

Distributee - A distributee is a person who is entitled to share in the distribution of assets of a deceased person who did not leave a Will.

Executor - An executor is a person appointed by a Surrogate's Court to settle the estate of a deceased person who left a valid Will.

Grantor - A grantor or settlor is a person who creates and funds a Trust with his or her assets.

Health Care Proxy - A Health Care Proxy is a document, permitted under New York State Law, which designates a person to make health care decisions for someone who may become unable to make those decisions for himself.

Last-Will-and-Testament - A Will is the legal expression of a person's wishes for his or her property after death. The formalities required in the preparation, form and signing of a Will are quite specific under New York State Law. A Will is also an appropriate document in which to express wishes for the care and custody of a deceased person's minor children.

Living Will (Advanced Directives) - A living will is a written statement regarding a persons wishes regarding continuation or withholding of treatment at the time of terminal illness.

Power of Attorney - A Power of Attorney is a document appointing another to act as a person's agent. In New York State, a Power of Attorney can be Durable, Non-Durable and Springing. An agent named in a Power of Attorney is not permitted to make health care decisions, but may be authorized to do so by a health care proxy.

Probate - Probate is the proceeding in New York Surrogate's Court to establish the validity of a deceased person's Will and to appoint a fiduciary named in that Will to settle the deceased person's estate.

Probate-Estate - A Probate-Estate consists of those assets of a deceased person that require the appointment of a fiduciary, (Executor, or Administrator) to obtain and transfer legal title to such assets.

Small-Estate - For residents of New York, dying after January 1, 2009, a Small-Estate is defined as a Probate-Estate valued at $30,000 or less and containing no real estate. A simplified procedure is available to settle a Small-Estate in New York Surrogate's Courts.

Taxable Estate - The taxable estate includes those assets of a deceased person that are required to be included on a Federal Estate Tax Return, including assets that are controlled by the Executor or Administrator of the estate, assets that are held jointly with another person or people, and assets of the deceased person that name beneficiaries.

Testator - A testator is a person who makes a Will with regard to his or her wishes.

Trust - A trust is an arrangement where property is transferred with the intention that it be held for another person's benefit. "Trust" usually refers to the document which establishes and documents such an arrangement. A Trust can be established during a person's lifetime ("living trust" or inter vivos trust) or in a person's Will (testamentary trust). The creator of a trust can also retain all rights to change or revoke a trust (revocable trust) or limit their own ability to make such changes or revocations (irrevocable trust).

Trustee - A trustee is a person who administers a Trust in accordance with the trust rules established by the Grantor.

Voluntary Administrator - A voluntary administrator is a person appointed by a Surrogate's Court to settle a Small-Estate.

Will Contest - A will contest is a proceeding in Surrogate's Court which arises when there is a dispute as to the existence or validity of a Will. New York State Law restricts the people who are permitted to initiate and participate in this proceeding based on the relationship of the people to the deceased person and his or her assets.

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