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Glossary of Legal Terms

Updated: Feb 27

Definitions for Commonly Used Legal Terms of Art




120-hour Rule - A person must survive more than 120 hours after the decedent’s death to take any property as an heir.


Administrator/Administratrix -The person who administers the estate for someone who died without a valid will.


Advance Medical Directive - A legal document directing what types of medical care are to be given or withheld.


Beneficiary - Person who receives property or income under a will or trust.


Bequest - A gift of personal property (i.e. not real property) under a will.


Capacity - The soundness of mind required to make a legally enforceable agreement or disposition of property.


Codicil - A written amendment to a previously executed will.


Crummey Trust - A trust where the beneficiary has the power to withdraw contributions made by the settlor under specified conditions to qualify the settlor’s contribution as a gift for annual gift tax exclusion purposes.


Devise - A gift of real property in a will.


Devisee - Person who receives real property under a will. Contrast with a legatee who receives personal property from a will.


Escheat - refers to property reverting to the ownership of the government due to the lack of legal heirs.


Estate - All the property owned by a person after their death. Also used to describe the entity that has legal authority of that property and represented by the Personal Representative.


Executor/Executrix - The person who is responsible for executing the terms of the will.


Grantor - A Settlor who retains certain powers over a trust and is taxed on the income produced by trust assets.


Heir - A person receiving property from a deceased person. A living person has no heirs, only presumptive heirs.


ILIT - Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust


Intestacy - The procedure for distributing a decedent's property if they died without a valid will.


Irrevocable Trust - A trust that is not capable of being revoked except in exceptional circumstances.


Living Will - See Advance Medical Directive


Legatee - A person who receives a gift of personal property in a will. Contrast with a devisee who receives real property in a will.


Marital Trust - A type of Irrevocable Trust designed to take advantage of the unlimited marital estate tax deductions by providing trust income to a spouse for their lifetime and then upon that spouse's death to a designated group of beneficiaries.


Partial Intestacy - When a person dies and leaves a valid will but some of their property is not given in the will.


Personal Representative - General term for either an Administrator or Executor.


Probate - The process of distributing the property belonging to a deceased person.


POA - See Power of Attorney


Power of Attorney - A powerful legal document granting an agent power to act on behalf of a principal.


QTIP - Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust - A type of marital trust that provides at the death of the surviving spouse, whatever property is left in the trust passes to the beneficiaries designated by the first spouse to die.


Revocable Trust - A trust capable of being revoked with all property reverting to the ownership of the settlor.


Settlor - A person who creates or contributes property to a trust. Compare with Grantor.


Testamentary Capacity - The capacity to make a valid will. The legal requirements in Virginia are explained here: What is Testamentary Capacity in Virginia


Testator - The person gifting property at their death through a will.


Trust - A fiduciary relationship where property is held in the name of one person for the benefit of someone else.


Trustee - The person who administers a trust


Will - A legal document that passes property upon the death of its testator.


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