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7 Estate Planning Terms You Should Know

7 Estate Planning Terms You Should Know

Estate planning is an incredibly important tool, not just for the extremely wealthy or those thinking about retirement. On the contrary, estate planning is something every adult should do. Estate planning can help you accomplish any number of goals, including appointing guardians for minor children, choosing healthcare agents to make decisions for you should you become ill, minimizing taxes, and stating how and to whom you would like to pass your estate on to when you pass away.

To help you get started, below are some important terms you should know as you think about your own estate plan:


A person or entity (such as a charity) that receives a beneficial interest in something, such as an estate, trust, account, or insurance policy.


A payment in cash or asset(s) to the beneficiary, individual, or entity who is entitled to receive it.


A person with a legal obligation (duty) to act primarily for another person’s benefit, e.g., a trustee, executor, or agent under a power of attorney. “Fiduciary” implies great confidence and trust, and a high degree of good faith.


The process of transferring (re-titling) assets to a living trust. A living trust will only avoid probate for those assets transferred to the trust. For assets which are not transferred to the trust (and which don’t pass according to a beneficiary designation), probate must be initiated to allow an executor to transfer the assets.


A fiduciary relationship in which one party, known as the trustmaker or settlor, gives another party, known as the trustee, the right to hold property or assets for the benefit of another party, the beneficiary.


The court-supervised process of managing the assets of an incapacitated person. For those of you familiar with the Britney Spears conservatorship, you can see that in most cases it is better to utilize more private methods to manage assets.


A written document with instructions for disposing of assets after death. A will can only be enforced through a probate court. A will can also contain the nomination of guardian for minor children.

If you have any additional questions about estate planning, or would like to consult an estate planning professional, please contact our offices. We can make sure you have a comprehensive plan that is tailored to your unique needs and goals.