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Glossary Terms and Definitions

Check out our glossary page for important legal terms and definitions that will help you understand the process.

Bequest

Gifts, including personal property or financial assets, that are made as part of a will or trust. Bequests can be to a single individual or a nonprofit organization.

Beneficiary

Any person who gains an advantage and/or profits from something; someone who is eligible to receive distributions from a trust or a will.

Charitable Remainder Trust

A tax-exempt irrevocable trust designed to reduce the taxable income of individuals by first dispersing income to the beneficiaries of the trust for a specified period of time and then donating the remainder of the trust to the designated charity.

Demonstrative Bequests

Gifts that come from an explicit source or are paid from a specific fund, such as a bank account.

Endowment

A donation of money or property to a non-profit organization, which uses the resulting investment income for a specific purpose.

Estate

An estate includes everything comprising the net worth of an individual, including all land, possessions, and other assets that the individual owns or has a controlling interest in.

Estate Planning

The preparation of tasks that serve to manage an individual’s asset in the event of their incapacitation or death. Estate planning includes the bequest of assets to heirs and organizations, and the settlement of estate taxes.

Estate Tax

A tax levied on an heir’s inherited portion of an estate if the value of the estate exceeds an exclusion limit set by law; a tax on an individual’s belongings after his or her death.

Executor (Administrator)

An individual appointed to administer the estate of a deceased person. The executor’s main responsibility is to carry out the instructions and wishes of the deceased. He or she is appointed either by the testator of the will, or by a court, if there was no prior appointment.

General Bequests

A testamentary gift that is paid out of the general assets of the estate; it does not specify the exact piece of property or asset the beneficiary shall receive. It may be satisfied from any of the general assets of the estate.

Gift Annuity

An agreement in which an individual transfers assets to a charity in exchange for a lifetime income stream and a tax benefit.

Gift in Trust

An indirect bequest of assets to a beneficiary by means of a special legal and fiduciary arrangement. The purpose of a gift in trust is usually to avoid taxes on gifts that exceed the annual gift tax exclusion amount.

Irrevocable Trust

A type of trust where its terms cannot be modified, amended, or terminated without the permission of the grantor’s named beneficiary.

Outright Gifts

A donation of cash or other assets such as stock, real estate, or personal property.

Probate

The process of validating a last will; a legal process in which a will is reviewed to determine whether it is valid and authentic. Probate also includes the general administering of a deceased person’s will or the estate of a deceased person without a will.

Qualified Charitable Organization

Nonprofit organizations that qualify for tax-exempt status according to the United States Treasury, including those operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes.

Residuary Bequests

Residuary bequests include all property and assets not included in the other three forms of bequests (i.e. specific, general, and demonstrative).

Revocable Trust

A trust whereby provisions can be altered or canceled dependent on the grantor

Specific Bequests

Bequests that allocate a particular asset to a specific beneficiary (e.g. jewelry, collectibles, money, property, etc.).

Testamentary Gift

A gift made by will; such gifts do not become effective until the death of the donor.

Testator

The individual who makes the will.

Trusts

Fiduciary relationships in which one party (i.e. trustor) gives another party (i.e. trustee) the right to hold title to property or assets for the benefit of a third party (i.e. beneficiary).

Wills

A document outlining an individual’s final wishes for his or her estate