Probate Definitions

Definitions of Common Probate Terms

Probate and estate planning sometimes include words with complex or multiple definitions. Oftentimes, these words have different meanings inside a courtroom than their everyday usage. Here are some common phrases you will come across in probate and estate planning.


  • Administration: the process of transferring property from an estate to beneficiaries
  • Administrator: one who carries out an administration
  • Affiant: one who makes a statement under oath
  • Affidavit: a written statement made under oath
  • Age of Majority: when someone is older than eighteen years of age.
  • Agent: a person authorized to act on behalf of someone else
  • Ancillary Administration: an administration in a state other than where the deceased lived


  • Beneficiary: someone entitled to property whether it be through a retirement account, the will, or a trust.
  • Bequest: property left in the will


  • Codicil: an amendment to a will


  • Decedent: a person who has died
  • Devisees: someone named in the will receiving (real) property
  • Disinherit: to not include someone in the will that would otherwise receive a portion of the estate.
  • Distribution: a gift that is given through probate or made by a trust to a trustee


  • Estate: a person’s possessions
  • Executor: person named in the will to carry out


  • Fiduciary: person who manages property with a legal responsibility


  • Guardian: a person the court appoints to represent and care for another


  • Heir: someone who has a the right to inherit property after the death of another due to the family relationship
  • Holographic will: a handwritten will


  • Insolvent Estate: an estate that has more debt than assets
  • Intestate: the state of affairs when someone dies without having a valid will
  • Issue: the bloodlines of someone that can determine the next of kin and heirs.


  • Joint and Survivorship Property: property that immediately transfers to someone else after the death of another.
  • Judge: the individual presiding and making decisions in probate court.


  • Legatees: someone named in a will receiving (personal) property
  • Letters of Authority: court documents that authorize individuals to act on behalf of an estate.
  • Living trust: a trust created and placed into effect while the person is still alive.
  • Local Rules: rules that a county probate court creates to provide efficiency and clarity.


  • Magistrate: a lawyer hired by judge in order to delegate authority and proceedings.


  • Next of kin: the closest living relatives of the deceased.


  • Ohio Revised Code: the laws of Ohio enacted by the General Assembly.
  • Ohio Rules of Superintendence: the rules of governance for government agencies and roles in Ohio.


  • Per stirpes: when assets are divided in a way where grandchildren step into the shoes of a deceased child.
  • Power of Attorney: a legal document that gives someone the ability to act for another person.
  • Probate Court: the court that deals with administering estates
  • Probate Estate: the property of a person that requires probate to change legal title to someone else.


  • Residue: the portion of the probate estate left over after expenses and specific gifts are made to others


  • Special Needs Trust: a trust created in order to protect trust assets and governmental benefits for those with special needs.
  • Specific bequest: a gift of a specific item named in the will.
  • Spendthrift Provision: a section of a trust document aimed to protect a beneficiary from creditors


  • Testamentary trust: a trust that is established before death funded by the residue of an estate
  • Testator: someone that makes a will.
  • Trust: an instrument created to hold legal title in property for the use of someone else.
  • Trustee: one who manages a trust and its assets for beneficiaries.


  • Uniform Transfer to Minors Act Account: an account that holds property gifted to minors until they reach the age of majority.


  • Ward: someone who has a guardian
  • Will: a written document witnessed by two people that states who get what portion of a probate estate.