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 Glossary for California Estate Planning Terms

ADVANCE HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE. A document that incorporates your health care decisions when you are not able to do so. This document includes the appointment of an individual(s), called the Agent to make comprehensive health care decisions for you and provides instructions related to end of life decisions regarding what types of measure you prefer to have, organ donation, disposition of body, religious preferences, and the rights of individuals to receive information (HIPPA).

BENEFICIARY. A person you designate to receive your income, principal, or proceeds of a trust, estate, financial account, retirement plans, insurance policy, etc.

CONSERVATOR. A person appointed by the court to manage the rights and/or property of a person who does not have the capability of taking care of his or her own affairs.

DECEDENT. A person who is deceased (with or without a will) with assets that may require a probate court proceeding.

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR MANAGEMENT OF PROPERTY AND PERSONAL AFFAIRS. An "Attorney-in-Fact" sometimes called an "Agent" is a person you designate to serve as your Attorney-in-Fact to manage your legal and financial affairs, in the event of your incapacity. A Durable Power of Attorney does not terminate when you become incapacitated.

EXECUTOR. A person nominated in a Will and thereafter appointed by the probate court to manage and distribute a decedent's estate according to the terms stated in the Will.

FEDERAL ESTATE TAX. Taxes paid to the federal government by the personal representative of an estate or trustee of a person's trust out of his or her assets.

FIDUCIARY. A person in a position of trust or confidence. For example, a trustee of your trust, an executor of your estate, personal representatives, and attorney-in-facts (agents).

FUNDING A TRUST. Changing legal title to a person's assets into the name of the Trustee of the Trust.

GIFT TAX. Tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient of the gift. This tax is generally only paid where the person making the gift exceeds their lifetime exemption of $11.5 million (2020 rate).

GUARDIAN AD LITEM. A person appointed by the court to prosecute or defend an action for a minor.

HEIR. A person entitled to inherit a portion of the estate of a person who has died without a will.

INTESTATE. A person dying without a Will, whose assets will be distributed pursuant to California intestacy succession laws.

IRREVOCABLE TRUST. A Trust that cannot be revoked, modified or amended once it has been created. These types of trusts can be created for tax purposes and to remove the property from a person's taxable estate so that it will not be subject to estate taxes upon his or her death.

LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION OFR LETTERS TESTAMENTARY. Letters issued by the court to a court appointed personal representative giving him or her the authority and power to distribute the decedent's probate property.

TRUST. A Trust created to hold the surviving spouse's share of property upon the death of the first spouse to die. In an A-B Trust structure, The A Trust will be the Marital Trust.

POUR OVER WILL. This type of Will disposes a person's property at time of death into the Trust, which property title was not changed into the title of the Trust during the person's lifetime. It simply directs distribution of individually owned property to that person's Trust and follows the distribution instructions within that Trust.

PROBATE. Probate is the court process used to transfer your assets to your beneficiaries or heirs upon your death. You must go through probate in California if your assets exceed $166,000.00. To avoid probate, your assets should be transferred into Trust.

REVOCABLE TRUST. A Trust that is created while the Trustor is alive. The purpose of a Trust is to include all property which does not pass by title, beneficiary designation or otherwise, to avoid probate. During the Trustor's lifetime, the terms of the revocable trust can be changed/amended as many times as the Trustor desires.

SUCCESSOR TRUSTEE. A person who takes over as a trustee after the death, disability or resignation of the original Trustee or prior Trustee.

TESTAMENTARY TRUST. A Trust created in a person's Will. This type of Trust only becomes effective after the Will has been probated and the asset held in the estate distributed in accordance with the Probate Court.

TRUSTEE. One who holds legal title to Trust Assets, managing and distributing the assets held in the name of the Trust pursuant to the terms and conditions in the Trust. A Trustee can be an individual, a bank, or trust company licensed to serve as a Trustee.

TRUSTOR. One who creates a Trust and whose property is transferred into the name of his or her trust. "Grantor" and "Settlor" are alternative terms for a person that creates a Trust.

WILL (aka Last Will and Testament). A legal document that is used to direct disposition of one's property after death.
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