Terms to Know Before Meeting with a Sacramento Estate Planning Attorney

Just like any legal field, estate planning has a number of terms that might be unfamiliar – or have unexpected meanings – to most people.

Before you visit an estate planning lawyer, it’s a good idea to have some understanding of these terms so that you can focus on the most important task which is making a plan that protects yourself and your estate. Here are key topics to become familiar with before your appointment: 

Administration: This is the process of finalizing an estate, also known as estate administration. This process includes a number of tasks such as creating an inventory of assets and making distributions according to the Last Will and Testament or probate court’s instructions.

Assets: Anything owned or controlled by a person that produces value including but not limited to real estate, vehicles, savings and checking accounts, investment accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, business interests, and personal property items.

Beneficiary: A person named in an insurance policy, retirement account, Last Will and Testament, or trust who is to receive ownership of the deceased’s assets.

Bequest: A specific gift meant for a particular individual or group. Bequests are usually designated in the Last Will and Testament.

Death Tax: Also known as an estate tax, this is a tax that is imposed by the state and/or federal government after a person passes away (California does not currently have a death tax). The tax must be paid if an individual’s estate is worth more than $11.58 million for individuals dying in 2020.

Guardian: The person named in the Last Will and Testament who gets custody of a minor child and makes decisions regarding the child’s property should the parents die or become incapacitated.

Heir: Similar to a beneficiary, this is someone who the law says is entitled to inherit some or all of the deceased’s assets if the decedent had no estate plan.

Probate: The process of closing an estate through the courts which begins with the validation of the Last Will and Testament and ends when all of the assets have been distributed.

Trust: A method for legally holding and managing property and assets for the benefit of specified individuals. Trusts can be either revocable or irrevocable, depending on the goals the trust needs to accomplish.

Last Will and Testament: A legal document that provides instructions for how a person’s property and assets should be distributed following his or her death.

It’s worth noting that some estate planning terms do change over time. For instance, a female executor would have once been called an “executrix,”  but that term has fallen out of use over the past several years. Again, if you need any clarification about the terminology being used, don’t hesitate to ask your estate planning lawyer for extra context. 

If you’d like to start putting together an estate plan, or if you have a current estate plan and would like to have it reviewed, please contact our Sacramento estate and elder law office at 800-244-8814 to set up a consultation.

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