Glossary

Probate and Trust Real Estate Glossary

Here are brief definitions of terms you may encounter if you are dealing with probate or trust real estate or inheritance property:

Beneficiary: The person or organization entitled to receive a portion of the estate.

Certificate of Qualification – (Also called Letters of Testamentary) Formal instrument of authority and appointment given to a fiduciary by the proper court, empowering him or her to act in the capacity of a fiduciary.

Conservator: A person who has the court-appointed fiduciary responsibility for the care of another adult.

Conservatee: The person whose care is provided for under a conservatorship.

Conservatorship: A court proceeding wherein a judge appoints a responsible person (Conservator) to care for another person (Conservatee) who cannot care for him/her self or his/her finances.

Custodian of the Will: The person in possession of the Will when the person who wrote the Will dies.

Decedent: The person who died.

Executor: A person named in a Will and appointed by the Court to carry out the decedent’s wishes. This person is usually named as the seller of the real property. (Also called Administrator or Personal Representative)

Fiduciary – A person in a position of trust with respect to another’s property; a general term used to refer to an executor, administrator or trustee.

Heir: A person who inherits.

Intestate: When someone dies without leaving a Will. When there is no Will, the sale of the decedent’s real property often requires court confirmation.

Intestate Succession: The order of who inherits the property when the decedent does not have a Will.

Legatees, or Devisees: People who are named in a Will.
Personal Representative (Administrator or Executor): The person responsible for overseeing the distribution of the estate.

Probate: The process of deciding where, how and to whom to distribute the decedent’s estate, such as the real property.

Probate Real Estate Sale: The transfer of legal title (ownership) of real property from the estate of the person who has died to his or her beneficiaries or to a buyer under the supervision of the Court.

Probate Referee: Before real property can be sold through probate, it must be appraised. This is done by a Probate Referee. In California, probate referees are appointed by the State Controller and assigned to a particular case by the court clerk. They are paid for this service directly by the estate, usually a percentage of the appraised value.
Real Property: The term used to refer to real estate (land and buildings) in probate and trust sales.

Qualification – Procedure whereby a person is appointed by the Clerk to serve as executor or administrator of a decedent’s estate.

Self-Proving – Acknowledgement of the testator and the affidavits of attesting witnesses, made before an officer authorized to administer oaths.

Testate: When someone dies leaving a Will.

Trust: When a person (Trustee) holds property at another person’s (Settlor’s) requests for the benefit of someone else (Beneficiary).

Will: A legal document that lists a person’s wishes about what will happen to his/her personal and real property after death.