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Probate Terms (glossary)

Here are some important probate terms you’ll want to know:

  • Beneficiary: A person who inherits when there is a Will.
  • Custodian of the Will: The person who has the Will when the person who wrote the Will dies.
  • Decedent (or deceased): The person who died.
  • Decedent’s estate: All the property (real or personal) that a person owned at the time of death.
  • Executor: A person named in a Will and appointed by the Court to carry out the dead person’s wishes.
  • Heir: A person who inherits when there is no Will.
  • Intestate: When someone dies without leaving a Will.
  • Intestate succession: The order of who inherits the property when someone dies without a Will.
  • Legatees, or devisees: People who are named in a Will.
  • Personal property: Things like cash, stocks, jewelry, clothing, furniture, or cars.
  • Personal representative (or administrator or executor): The person responsible for overseeing the distribution of the estate.
  • Probate: The process of deciding where, how, and to whom to distribute the decedent’s property.
  • Real property: Buildings and land.
  • Testate: When someone dies leaving a Will.
  • Trust: When one person (trustee) holds property at another person’s (settlor’s) request for the benefit of someone else (the beneficiary).
  • Will: A legal paper that lists a person’s wishes about what will happen to his/her property after death.
© 2014 Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara