Administration Proceeding: The name of the proceeding that occurs in the Surrogate’s Court when a person has not left a will.
Administrator: The name given to a person appointed by the Surrogate Court to manage the estate of a person who died without a will.
Administrator c. t. a.: A person named as Administrator where there is a valid will, but the named Executor is unable or unavailable to act.
Affidavit: A written or printed statement made under oath.
Ancillary Administration: The name of a secondary administration proceeding started in another state. (e.g., If the decedent dies in New York, the primary proceeding will be in the New York. If he or she owned a house in Florida, an Ancillary proceeding must be brought in Florida, since the New York Court does not have jurisdiction over a real property (the house) outside of New York.
Attorney-in-Fact: This is the name given to a person who has been granted power of attorney.
Claims: Liabilities of the decedent, whether arising in contract, tort, or otherwise, and funeral expenses. The term does not include expenses of administration or estate, inheritance, succession, or other death taxes.
Clerk: The clerk or deputy clerk of the court.
Codicil: A supplement or addition to a will, modifying the will in some way.
Contest: This refers to the questioning or challenging of the will’s validity.
Contingent beneficiary: This is the term given to a person that could take the place of the primary beneficiary under certain circumstances.
Creditor: An individual or entity to which an estate owes money.
Legatee: One who is named in a will to receive property (personal property only).
Legacy: A gift of personal property under a will.
Letters: The authority granted by the court to the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate of the decedent and refers to what has been known as “letters testamentary” and “letters of administration”.
Liabilities: This refers to outstanding debts left by the decedent.
Liquid assets: This is anything that can be immediately converted to cash.
Personal Property: Any property that is not real property (e.g., money, savings accounts, stocks, bonds, investment accounts, jewelry, appliances, furniture, automobiles, etc.).
Personal Representative: The fiduciary (Executor or administrator) appointed by the court to administer the estate.
Per Capita (by the head): One of two common methods of distributing property when there is no will, the other being “per stirpes”. The difference is in how a predeceased heir is treated. For example, Adam’s will states that the property is to be divided between Joe and Sue, per capita. If Joe dies before Adam, then Sue will receive the entire estate. Under per stirpes distribution, the estate will be split between Sue and Joe’s children.
Per Stirpes (by the branch): One of two common methods of distributing property when there is no will, the other being “by representation”. See above.
Petition: A written request to the court for an order.
Power of Attorney: This is a written document, which gives permission for another person to represent you and act on your behalf for financial matters.
Probate of Will: The legal process of proving a will, appointing an Executor, and settling an estate. It has commonly come to mean the legal process of administering any dead person’s estate, regardless of whether or not a will existed.
Pro bono: Work or services done or performed by an attorney free of charge.
Self-Proved Will: A will in which at least two witnesses took an oath, included in the will, at the time the will was signed, and in which both the witnesses’ and the decedent’s signatures were notarized by a qualified notary public.
Subpoena: A document ordering an individual to appear in court and give testimony.