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A look at basic estate terminology

Over the recent weeks, we've covered numerous estate topics that might be of interest to potential clients. Today, we're covering some basic estate terminology, because we realize the legal words used in this industry aren't always words used in every day speech.

The first word we use a lot is estate. Estate is whatever is left behind by a person when they die. That can include real property, such as cars or homes, money assets, such as cash and bank accounts, and intellectual property. It could also include personal items, family heirlooms, jewelry, art and many other things.

We often talk about going through probate or avoiding probate. Probate is actually the act of following an estate plan or distributing the assets of an estate based on the law. The laws that govern the estate administration process are called probate laws.

When individuals die without any estate plans, they are said to have died intestate. In these cases, intestacy laws are used to help identify heirs, handle estate-related debts and distribute any assets of the estate.

Trusts and wills are both legal estate documents that help you ensure your wishes are followed after you die. Your will is a document that provides for all types of wishes, including wishes for how you want your body to be treated following death and how your assets should be divided. A trust is a similar tool that lets you put more restrictions on how your assets are handled.

These are just some of the basic terms and tools related to estate planning. For more information about planning for your estate, consider contacting and estate law professional.

Source: Money Crashers, "What Is Estate Planning – Basics & Checklist for Costs, Tools, Probates & Taxes," Mark Theoharis, accessed June 03, 2016

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