Probate/Trust Glossary


Below, please find a brief definitions of terms you may encounter when dealing with probate, trust real estate or inheritance property:

Beneficiary: A person who inherits when there is a will in-place.

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

Conservatee: The person whose receives care 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 themselves or their finances.

Custodian of the Will: The person who is in possession of the decedent’s will upon death.

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 likely named as the “seller” of the real property.

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 likely requires court confirmation.

Intestate succession: The order of who inherits the property when the decedent does not have a will. If you don’t have a will, the state will make one for you.

Legatees, or Devisees: People who are named in a will.

Personal Representative (Administrator or Executor) or “PR”: 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, including the real property associated with the estate.

Probate real estate sale: The transfer of legal ownership (title) of real property from the estate of the person who died to his or her assigned 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.

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.