Legal terms can be difficult to understand. If someone you love has just died, your head may be filled to breaking point. There are funeral arrangements to make, long-lost relatives and friends to contact, bills to pay and other family members to comfort. You need to do all this while in a state of shock and grief. So now is not the ideal time to be taking a crash course in legal terminology.
However, knowing a few legal terms will make your life easier. Here are a few basic terms you need to understand when someone in your family has died:
- Will: A legal document where someone defines how they want their estate shared out after their death.
- Estate: A person’s possessions and anything they owe or are liable for.
- Probate: A court makes sure the estate of a person who died is correctly distributed as per their will and the law.
- The deceased: The person who has died.
- The executor: The person the deceased nominated to take charge of organizing this.
- The creditors: Anyone owed money by the deceased person.
- The benefactors: Those set to receive part of the estate of the deceased.
- Contested probate: When someone objects to the way things are to be shared.
- Uncontested probate: When no one objects to the way things are to be shared.
So, now you have a basic understanding of the terms used when talking about probate. However, to confuse matters even more, there are ways to avoid probate altogether. Your deceased family member may have used things such as gifts, revocable living trusts, death beneficiaries or joint property ownership to pass on their property to you or others.
If you need to understand how the estate your loved one left behind will be distributed, don’t try and do it alone. There is a reason lawyers spend years studying.