Glossary of Probate Terms

Utah skiAdministrator: Term no longer is use for a person named in a Will to carry out settlement of the estate. Under the Utah Uniform Probate Code, the term is now “Personal Representative”.

Alternate Valuation Date: A date exactly six months following a decedent’s date of death that the Personal Representative may choose to revalue for estate tax purposes, all assets owned or controlled by the decedent.

Ancillary Probate: Term for probate if decedent had real property in another state.

Assets: All types of property which can be made available for the payment of debts.

Beneficiary: A person (or institution) who derives benefit from the creation of a trust, proceeds of insurance policy, proceeds from a retirement plan (such as 401(k), pension, and IRA), or property designated by a Will.

Conservator: A person who is appointed by a court to manage the estate of an incapacitated person who, because of age, injury, disability, or other physical or mental health limitations, is incapable of managing his or her own affairs.

Devise: When used as a noun, real or personal property given to another by Will. When used as a verb, to dispose of real or personal property by Will.

Devisee: Any person designated in a Will to receive real or personal property.

Disclaimer: Refusal of a beneficiary to accept property Willed to him or her. When a disclaimer is made, the property is generally transferred to the person next in line under the Will. Also called a renunciation.

Domicile: Place where a person has voluntarily fixed his/her habitation, not for a temporary or special purpose but with a present intention of making it his/her permanent home unless and until something, which is uncertain and unexpected, happens to induce him/her to adopt some other permanent home.

Exempt Property: Property not exceeding $15,000 in value in excess of any security interests in household furniture, automobiles, furnishings, appliances and personal effects to which a surviving spouse is entitled from the estate. This property is protected from creditors and devisee claims (Utah law).

Family Allowance: The surviving spouse and minor children are entitled to a reasonable family allowance in cash from the estate for their maintenance during the period of probate administration. The Personal Representative may determine the family allowance in a lump sum not exceeding $27,000, or periodic installments not exceeding $2,250 per month for one year (Utah law).

Formal Probate Proceedings: Proceedings conducted with a hearing before a judge, after notice to interested persons, for probate of a Will, appointment of a Personal Representative, or other related matters.

Fiduciary: A person holding an office of trust and confidence involving scrupulous good faith.  It includes a Personal Representative, guardian, conservator and trustee.

Guardian: A person legally empowered and charged with the duty of caring for an individual who, because of incapacity, cannot manage his or her own affairs. The guardian manages the person. In contrast, a conservator manages the property of an incapacitated individual. The same person can be appointed both guardian and conservator.

Heirs: Those persons entitled under the statutes of intestate succession to the property of a decedent who dies without a Will or where a Will is not timely probated.

Holographic Will: A Will in which the signature and material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator.

Homestead Allowance: A surviving spouse of a decedent who was a resident of Utah is entitled to a homestead allowance of $22,500, free of creditor claims.

Informal Probate Proceedings: Proceedings conducted formal hearings by the clerk of the court, for probate of a Will or appointment of a Personal Representative.

Inherit: To receive property from a deceased person.

Intestate: A term used when a person dies without leaving a valid Will.

Joint Tenancy: A form of co-ownership in which two or more persons hold interests in the same property with right of survivorship.

Letters Testamentary: Formal court document issued by a probate judge giving the Personal Representative authority to act on behalf of the estate and the deceased person.

Life Estate: A condition created whereby a person has the right to use property or receive income from property only for his or her lifetime.

Lineal Descendant: One who is, by blood relationship, in the direct line of descent from an ancestor. The term includes adopted children in Utah.

Pay on Death (POD): Designation or naming of a beneficiary to receive an account balance on a party’s death.

Personal Representative: A person named in a Will or appointed by the district court to administer the estate of a decedent. Formerly referred to as executor or administrator.

Personal Property: Assets whose ownership arises either out of physical possession of the property, or as the result of a document showing ownership. Examples include jewelry, livestock, machinery, bank deposits, stocks and bonds, checking and savings accounts, automobiles and recreational vehicles. In Utah, all property other than real estate.

Pour-over Will: A Will which contains a clause that transfers some or all of the assets that pass through the Will into a trust for final distribution from the trust. The Will’s assets are said to “pour over” into the trust.

Pretermitted Child: One who may, under certain circumstances, become an heir by birth or adoption subsequent to the date of execution of a testator’s Will.

Probate: The process of gathering all property of someone who died, paying all just debts and taxes, and distributing the balance to the persons designated in the Will (or to the heirs as prescribed by intestacy law where there is no Will, or the Will is defective, or the Will is filed late).

Real Property: Real estate, minerals and royalty interests, growing timber, land and buildings attached to the land.

Remainderman: One entitled to the remainder of a life estate after a particular reserved right or interest has expired.

Right of Election: The surviving spouse’s right to a share of the “augmented estate” rather than accepting the amount provided by Will or intestate succession statutes.

Sole Ownership: Title to property in one name alone.

Spouse: An individual’s wife or husband.

Tenancy in Common: A type of co-ownership between two or more persons who hold undivided interests in the same property with no right of survivorship for the surviving tenant in common. When one dies, his or her share becomes part of his or her estate. That share goes to his or her heirs and not to the other tenants in common unless they are also his/her heirs or, if there is a Will, to his/her devisees.

Testamentary: Pertaining to a Will.

Uniform Probate Code: A standardized code designed by the American Law Institute and adopted by Utah in the 1970s to streamline the probate process.

Will: The legal instrument expressing a person’s wishes and directions as to the disposition and distribution of his/her property after death.

Witness: A person who observes the signing of a Will and other documents and attests to the signature.