Beneficiary – an individual who benefits from a Trust or Will.

Cohabitation Agreement – a contract set up by persons living together but not contemplating marriage, in which they define their rights, responsibilities, and liabilities arising out of cohabiting together and often – investing in assets together.

Community Property Agreement/Marital Agreement – a contract entered into by married couples who wish to define their property rights, liabilities and responsibilities after marriage. It is utilized by those who never entered into a Prenup, or by those who do have a Prenup, but wish to modify its terms.

Decedent – a deceased individual.

Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Management – a document in which you appoint another person as your Agent to legally represent you and sign/act instead of you, if you are incapacitated, or unable to be physically present at a location where a transaction requiring your signature takes place.

Estate Administrator – appointed by the court when a Decedent dies without a Will.

Estate Executor – named by the Decedent to carry out the terms of their Will.

Fiduciary Capacity – an individual who is in a position of trust on behalf of another individual.

Health Care Directive – a document in which you appoint an Agent who is authorized to make medical decisions for you, and represent your wishes regarding long-term care, your intent to remain or return home after a facility/hospital stay, makes medical decisions if you are incapacitated, unconscious, or medicated, including end-of-life decisions, and organ donation.

HIPAA Release Authority – a document giving your Medical Agent the express permission to obtain your medical records (so that they can make an intelligent and informed decision about authorizing medical treatment for you), and releases the holder of such records from liability under the federal medical records privacy laws (the HIPAA Act).

Living Trust – allows a Decedent’s assets with gross value exceeding $150,000 to be administered outside of court and without Probate.

Medical Directive – expresses your wishes regarding long-term care, incapacity, end-of-life decisions, and medical treatment.

Pour Over Will – covers assets that are not included within a Living Trust.

Prenuptial (or Premarital) Agreement – a contract between couples contemplating marriage. Since California is a Community Property State, the rights and liabilities of married couples are very specific under the California Family Code, which treats the marital unit like a partnership. A Prenuptial Agreement contracts out of the community property scheme, and allows a husband and wife to stipulate about spousal support, property rights, inheritance rights, debts, etc, at time of dissolution or death, and minimize the weight of the family court and case law on the consequences of divorce.

Probate – the court-supervised process of either “proving” a decedent’s Last Will, or administering the assets of a deceased person who died without a Will. It is required when the assets of a decedent exceed $150,000 in gross value, regardless of whether there was a Will, or not.

Settlor (or Grantor) – the creator of the Trust.

Survivor – a person who outlives another individual.

Testamentary Will – a traditional Will.

Trust – a legal relationship in which property is titled in a legal entity and held by a Trustee for the benefit of the Trust Beneficiaries. It provides for administration of your assets during your life, and the distribution of your assets at death.

Trust Amendment or Restatement – may be utilized to update an existing Trust, or a Trust governed by another jurisdiction.

Trustee – the individual who steps in to conduct the administration of the trust assets. The Trustee acts in Fiduciary capacity with regard to the Beneficiaries. They are accountable not only to the Beneficiaries, but most notably – to the Probate Court for misstepping, misusing his powers, misguiding, or failing to understand and properly guide the administration of a trust.

Will – a legal document in which you nominate an Executor, who after you die submits the Will to Probate, and is appointed as Executor by the Probate Court, before he can act as Executor.


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