The Probate Pro provides this glossary of common probate and trust terms using plain, easy to understand words. And, The Probate Pro has created a useful video link to many of the probate and trust terms with additional information. This glossary provides simple, basic definitions of words commonly used in probate. It is not to be used for any legal purposes and is not a legal dictionary.

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Glossary of Probate Definitions and Terms

Term Definition Helpful Michigan Resource
Acceptance of Appointment ​A probate court form that must be signed by a fiduciary who has been appointed by the court. It provides that the fiduciary will accept the appointment, submit to personal jurisdiction of the court and to perform all required duties.
Account (Conservator) A probate court form that must be completed by the conservator and filed yearly with the court. It must also be served on all interested persons. Accounts may be labeled "1st annual," "2nd annual," etc., and "final account," depending on how many years the file has been opened. It is a detailed statement of the assets being managed for an individual by the conservator. It lists "Income and other receipts," "Expenses and other disbursements," and "Itemized assets remaining at the end of the accounting period."
Account (Decedent Estate) A probate court form that must be completed by a personal representative and served on all interested persons on a yearly basis. If the estate is a supervised administration, the account must be filed with the court annually. If the estate is under unsupervised administration, the account may be filed with the court, but it is not required. Accounts will be labeled "1st annual," "2nd annual," etc., and "final account," depending on how many years the estate has been opened, generally. It is a detailed statement of the estate assets that are being managed by the personal representative and includes "Income and other receipts," "Expenses and other disbursements," and Itemized assets remaining at the end of the accounting period."
Accounting Period ​Usually, a one-year period of time which begins and ends on the anniversary date of the issuance of the Letters of administration.
Accounts A probate court form that must be completed by a fiduciary. It is a detailed statement of the assets that are being administered.
Ad Litem A person appointed to act in a proceeding or lawsuit on behalf of a minor or other person who is not considered capable of representing themselves.
Ademption A doctrine used in probate law to determine what happens when property devised under a Will is no longer in the testator's name at the time of the testator's death.
Administration The authority given to the fiduciary to manage a person's or decedent's monies.
Administrator The person given to the authority to manage a person's or decedent's monies.
Affidavit An affidavit is a legal written statement made under oath.
Amended To change or modify a document or form.
Amendment The changed or modified document or form.
Ancillary Administration Administration in a state other than the decedent’s domicile, when there is also a known administration at the place of domicile.
Annual Report A probate court form that must be completed by the guardian and filed yearly with the court. It reports on the well being of the ward in the guardian's care.
Appearance An Appearance may occur when a party physically appears in a court proceeding, or through the filing of a written document with the court.
Application A written request to the probate register for informal probate of a will and/or appointment of a personal representative in a decedents estate.
Appraisal A valuation of the personal or real property of the estate.
Appraiser A professional who estimates the value of the personal or real property of the estate.
Assets Monies or property.
Attestation The clause generally at the end of an instrument wherein the witnesses certify that the instrument has been executed before them, and the manner of the execution of same. A certificate certifying as to the facts and circumstances attending execution of a will.
Attorney-In-Fact The individual who is designated in the power of attorney document to act on behalf of another.
Beneficiary One who will receive a benefit or gift from the estate.
Bequeath The act of gifting or benefiting from a will.
Bequest The gift or benefit identified in a will.
Bond or Bond of Fiduciary A guarantee of performance. In many probate files, the fiduciary is required to post a bond to ensure that the duties are handled appropriately.
Bonding Agency The company that issues or places bonds.
Capacity Mental ability to make a decision, which includes the ability to perceive and appreciate all relevant facts.
Claimant ​The person or entity who presents a claim for money or property from an estate. Also known as a creditor.
Claims A codicil is an addendum to a will. (See will.)
Codicil ​An addition to a Will.
Consanguinity Related by blood. Being descended from a common ancestor.
Conservator  A conservator is a person appointed by a probate court and given power and responsibility for the estate (financial assets and property) of an adult (called a protected individual) or a minor.
Conservatorship ​The type of probate court matter in which a person (called a fiduciary( is appointed for a protected individual (either a minor or an adult).
Contest A dispute, fight, or litigation.
Contingent Beneficiary An alternate person who will receive a benefit or gift from the estate.
Court Appointed Attorney ​An attorney who is appointed by the court to be represent an interested person.
Creditor An individual or entity who is owed money by an estate. If a claim is presented, a creditor is also known as a "claimant."
Creditor Claim A bill or claim owed to a creditor from an estate.
Death Certificate A legal document evidencing death.
Debtor ​A person or entity who owes money or property to an estate.
Deceased A person who has died.
Decedent A person who has died.
Deficiency, Notice Of The notice the probate court sends to inform a fiduciary of any failure in the handling of their duties.
Degree Of Relationship The number of steps between two persons determined by counting the generations separating one person from a common ancestor and then counting the generations to the other person.
Delinquent A fiduciary who has not completed a mandated duty or responsibility in a timely fashion.
Developmental Disability Developmental disability is a mental disability that begins before an individual attains age 18, that continues indefinitely, and that is substantially handicapping. Developmental disabilities include, but are not limited to, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy and autism.
Devise ​To give assets through a will.
Devisee ​A person or entity who gets assets through a will
Distributee ​A person who receives property from an estate through a personal representative.
Distributions A docket is a list or schedule of cases to be presented before the court.
Docket ​The court hearings, information and court filings assigned to a particular judge. 
Durable Power Of Attorney A power of attorney which remains in effect if you become incapacitated, such as due to illness or an accident.
Durable Power Of Attorney For Healthcare A document that designates a person to make medical treatment decisions when the patient is unable to act on his/her own behalf.
Elective Share A right of a surviving spouse to a guaranteed share, that is defined by statute.
EPIC ​The Michigan law known as the "Estates and Protected Individuals Code" that went into effect April 1, 2000. It repealed the previous law governing probate, which was called the "Revised Probate Code." EPIC governs most of the proceedings in probate court. It includes provisions relating to wills and intestacy, the administration and distribution of estates and trusts, and the affairs of those individuals who are under legal incapacity.
Escheat Properties abandoned and unclaimed by a bank or company entrusted with them turned over to the state. The custodian of these assets returns them to their owners when they are rightfully claimed.
Estate The property of the decedent or protected individual that exists throughout administration.
Ex Parte A request directly to the court by petition or motion without waiting for an opposition response or hearing.
Executor Another name for a personal representative.
Exempt Property A high priority, distributive share of household furniture, automobiles, furnishings, appliances and personal effects of a decedent to family member(s), defined by statute.​
Family Allowance A high priority allowance for income for the support of the surviving spouse and/or qualifying children for the administration period.
Filing Fees ​Fees charged by the Court.
Fiduciary ​A person who undertakes the legal duty to act for the benefit of another. Fiduciaries include, but are not limited to, personal representatives, guardians, conservators, or trustees.
Fiduciary Duty It is the duty to act to put their client's best interests ahead of their own.
Final Account The final account is the final accounting of the estate.
Formal Estates A method of opening a decedent's estate with a Petition.
Formal Proceedings Administering a decedent's estate following a Petition.
Forms Pre-approved court pleadings.
GAL An abbreviation for "Guardian Ad Litem." A person appointed to act in a proceeding or lawsuit on behalf of a minor or other person who is not considered capable of representing themselves.
Grantor Someone who transfers a property right to another. In a real estate transaction, the grantor is the seller. In probate, the grantor is the signor of the will.
Gross Inventory Fee A court fee placed upon the total value of the assets in a decedent's estate at the time of death.
Guardian A person who is appointed by the court to make personal decisions for a minor or legally incapacitated individual.
Guardian Ad Litem A person appointed to act in a proceeding or lawsuit on behalf of a minor or other person who is not considered capable of representing themselves.
Guardian Of The Estate A guardian who has the authority to make decisions regarding the management of the property and finances of an individual with a developmental disability.
Guardian Of The Person A guardian who has the authority to make decisions regarding the care and custody of an individual with a developmental disability, such as medical and housing decisions.
Guardianship The type of probate court matter in which a guardian is appointed for a minor, a legally incapacitated individual or an individual with a developmental disability.
Heir ​A person who is entitled to a decedent's property according to the laws of intestate succession.
Heir-At-Law ​A person who is entitled to a decedent's property according to the laws of intestate succession.
Holographic Will A Will is a holographic Will, if it is dated and the person's signature and the documents material portions are in the person's handwriting.
Homestead Allowance A designated amount of money given to the decedent's surviving spouse or qualifying children. This allowance has priority over all claims filed against the decedent's estate except administration costs and expenses and reasonable funeral and burial expenses.
Incapacity Physical or mental inability to do something or to manage one's affairs.
Individual With A Developmental Disability ​An individual who has a severe, chronic condition that is attributable to a mental and/or physical impairment which was manifested before age 22, is likely to continue indefinitely, and results in substantial functional limitations of major life activities.
Informal Estates The process of opening a probate estate by an Application.
Informal Proceedings Administration of a decedent's estate following an Application.
Inter Vivos Trust A fiduciary relationship used in estate planning created during the lifetime of the trustor. This trust has a duration that is determined at the time of the trust's creation and can entail the distribution of assets to the beneficiary during or after the trustor's lifetime.
Interested Person ​Any person "interested" in a probate matter as determined by court rule or statute. "Interested persons" include but are not limited to, heirs, devisees, creditors, and beneficiaries, depending on the type of matter. Interested persons must be notified of all relevant court proceedings.
Intestate To die without a Will.
Intestate Heir The person(s) that inherit when a person dies without a Will.
Intestate Succession A person who dies intestate has their estate distributed according to the scheme set up by the state called intestate succession.
Inventory An inventory is an itemized list of property in the estate.
Inventory Fee A court fee placed upon the total value of the assets in a decedent's estate at the time of death.
Involuntary Commitment ​The process by which a court orders a particular individual, against his or her will, to undergo temporary hospitalization or alternative mental health treatment.
Issue Issue refers to offspring, biological children, and legal descendants.
Joint Tenancy Two or more owners own an undivided interest in the entire property with a right of survivorship. Upon a co-joint tenant’s death, the decedent’s share of the property transfers to the surviving joint tenant(s), not his or her heirs or beneficiaries.
Joint Will A joint will is made and signed by two or more persons together.
Jurisdiction ​The authority of the court to hear certain types of matters.
Lady Bird Deed The ladybird deed has become a useful tool in estate planning and probate avoidance. Generally, the grantor retains a life estate and the power to subsequently convey the fee.
Last Will And Testament A written expression of how an individual wants their property distributed after death.
Legally Incapacitated Individual ​An adult individual who has been determined by the court to lack the capacity for self-care and for whom a guardian has been appointed.
Letters of Authority A document issued by the court that evidences the fiduciary's powers.
Letters of Conservatorship A document issued by the court that evidences the conservator's powers.
Letters of Guardianship A document issued by the court that evidences the guardian's powers.
Letters Restrictions The court may put restrictions on the powers of the fiduciary. These restrictions are set forth on the Letters.
Letters Testamentary A document issued by the court that evidences the fiduciary's powers. Testamentary refers to the existence of a will.
Living Trust A person, especially a child, placed by the court under the care of a guardian.
Living Will See Patient Advocate Designation.
Mental Health Code ​That part of the Michigan Compiled Laws the sets forth the law regarding mental health commitments and guardianships over individuals with developmental disability.
Michigan Court Rules The rules that govern court procedure.
Minor A minor is a person who has not yet reached full legal age.
Motion A written request for a court order on a particular issue.
Next Friend A person who represents another person who is under age, or, because of disability or otherwise, is unable to maintain a suit on his or her own behalf.
Next of Kin Related by blood. Being descended from a common ancestor.
Notice or Notice of Hearing To apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action, motion or petition and afford them an opportunity to present an objection.
Notice of Continued Administration A legal notice evidencing the continuation of the probate administration.
Order A legal ruling from a court.
Partial Guardian A guardian with limited, specified authority over an individual with a developmental disability. One may be a partial guardian of the estate, or a partial guardian of the person.
Patient Advocate Designation A document that designates a person to make medical treatment decisions when the patient is unable to act on his/her own behalf. A Michigan statutory version of what is sometimes referred to as a "living will." It is sometimes referred to as a "Medical Durable Power of Attorney."
Per Capita A method of distributing an estate in which each person receives an equal share.
Per Stirpes A method of distributing an estate in which each branch of the family is to receive an equal share of an estate. When the heir in the first generation of a branch predeceased the decedent, the share that would have been given to the heir would be distributed among the heir's issue in equal shares.
Personal Property Any movable thing or intangible item of value that is capable of being owned by a person.
Personal Representative An individual who is appointed by a probate court to administer a decedent's estate.
Petition A written request for a court order on a particular issue.
Petition and Order for Assignment When the estate consists entirely of assets that do not exceed a particular value, after payment of decedent's funeral and burial expenses, a simple procedure is available.
Petitioner One who presents a petition to a court.
Physicians Certificate ​A written document which is signed by a physician or licensed psychologist.
Pleadings Legal documents filed with a court.
Plenary Guardian A guardian with full authority over an individual with a developmental disability. One may be a plenary guardian of the estate, or a plenary guardian of the person.
Power of Attorney A written and notarized document giving an individual legal power to act on behalf of another according to the terms of the document.
Priority of Appointment The statutory order upon which a person has the right to be the personal representative.
Probate The process of administering a decedent's estate, whether there is a will (testate) or not (intestate).
Probate Court The court which handles decedent estates, guardianships over adults and minors, conservatorships over adults and minors, guardianships over individuals with developmental disability, trusts, involuntary commitments and other miscellaneous matters.
Probate Register A court designated individual who has the power to perform certain administrative acts in uncontested matters as authorized by general order of the probate judge.
Probation This has nothing to do with the probate court or probate issues. It relates to a criminal proceeding in which there is a release of an offender from detention, subject to a period of good behavior under supervision.
Proof of Service A probate court form lists which interested persons have been served with appropriate notice of a document, particular action, and/or court hearing. A court file generally cannot be heard by the judge until the responsible party has indicated to the court, through this form, that all interested persons have been served with a copy of the relevant petition or motion, and the notice of hearing. 
Property Anything that can be owned.
Protected Individual A person (minor or adult) who has a court appointed conservator.
Public Administrator A licensed practicing attorney assigned by the court to serve as fiduciary over an estate and/or individual when a family member or friend is unable or unwilling to serve as fiduciary.
Publications Notices that are published in a legal publication.
Qualify The court uses this term to refer to the steps a fiduciary must take before the court may issue Letters. Generally, a fiduciary must file an Acceptance of Appointment or a bond before they are qualified to act. 
Quiet Title The legal process to correct or resolve a title defect.
Real Property  Land, and anything growing on, affixed to, or built upon the land (a house).
Receipt A receipt is a written statement that funds, property, or legal documents have been received.
Renunciation To voluntarily relinquish certain rights and/or duties. Most often this refers to a voluntary refusal to serve as personal representative for purposes of administering a decedents estate.
Report See Annual Report.
Respondent An individual who is the subject of a petition.
SCAO An abbreviation for the State Court Administrative Office.
Service or "To Serve" To deliver documents to an interested person. See also Proof of Service.
Special Fiduciary A person appointed by the court to perform specific and limited duties on behalf of an estate or protected individual.
Special Needs Trust A special needs trust (an SNT) is a trust that preserves the beneficiary’s eligibility for needs-based government benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Specific Bequest A gift to a person by specifically nominating the recipient to receive the gift in a Will.
Spendthrift Trust A trust designed so that the beneficiary is unable to sell or give away her equitable interest in the trust property.
Standing The legal right to initiate a lawsuit. To possess standing, a person must be sufficiently affected by the matter at hand, and there must be case or controversy that can be resolved by legal action.
Statement and Proof of Claim A claim of a debt to a creditor against a probate estate.
Summary Proceeding Unsupervised estates may qualify for a shortened form of administration called "summary proceedings" if the total value of a decedents property is below the statutory limits requiring payment for homestead allowance, family allowance, and exempt property.
Supervised Administration or Supervised Estate A type of procedure used in estate administration. Under supervised administration, the personal representative must file additional papers with the court (as opposed to unsupervised administration) such as the inventory, annual accounts and several notices. The personal representative must also ask for court approval before distributions may be made.
Surcharge A request of the court to hold the fiduciary accountable for improper acts that cause a loss to the estate.
Surety A surety is a person or entity who agrees to be liable for another's debts and obligations in case of default.
Tangible Personal Property Personal property that takes a tangible form, such as automobiles, furniture and heirlooms.
Tenants By Entireties Spouses owning property together as a single legal entity. Upon the spouse’s death, the decedent’s share of the property transfers to the surviving spouse avoiding probate.
Tenancy In Common Title held as tenants in common occurs when two or more co-owners (called co-tenants) own equal or unequal percentages of the property
Testamentary Pertain to a will.
Testamentary Trust A testamentary trust is a trust that is established in accordance with the instructions contained in a last will and testament.
Testate Testate is when an individual dies having left a will.
Testamentary Disposition Testamentary items or matters means that they pertain to a will.
Testator The person who makes a will.
Testimony to Identify Heirs An affidavit that is part of the probate process that identify the family tree.
Title Evidence of ownership of an asset.
Transcript A verbatim, official or certified record of all proceedings that transpired in the trial court.
Trust A way to hold property in which legal and equitable title are separated. The legal title to trust property is held in the trust name solely for the benefit of another. A trust is created by a "settlor" through a written document transferring legal title to the assets from the settlors name into the trust name. The trust document allows a "trustee" to manage and distribute trust assets solely for the benefit of the "trust beneficiary."
Trust Inter Vivos Also known as a "living trust". A trust document that is created and administered for the benefit of and during the life of the trust creator who is also known as the "settlor."
Trust Irrevocable A trust document in which the trust property is permanently conveyed in the trust name. The trust creator (also known as the "settlor") is unable to regain control of the trust property or otherwise destroy the trust.
Trust Testamentary A trust that is created by the decedent's Will.
Trustee The fiduciary who oversees a trust.
Unsupervised Administration or Unsupervised Estate A procedure used in estate administration in which most of the estate activity is done without court intervention. The court is involved at the opening and closing stages, but does not generally become involved otherwise unless requested by the personal representative or an interested person, or on the court's own initiative.
Venue The county probate court in which the proceeding is properly administered.
Verification of Funds On Deposit A form used in a minor conservatorship file to indicate in which financial institution the ward's money is located. The form must designate the account name, number, amount on deposit and must be signed by a representative of the financial institution.
Waiver & Consent A form which is signed by an interested person, and which indicates that the interested person agrees (consents) with the matter before the court, and in which the interested person indicates that he/she does not need to be notified of the hearing.
Ward An individual for whom a guardian has been appointed.
Will (Last Will And Testament) A written expression of how an individual wants their property distributed after death.
Witness A witness is a person who attests to actions or events personally seen.
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