Probate, Estates and Elder Law Legal Terms

AAdvance Directives
Formal legal documentation of your wishes related to your body and healthcare, should you become incapacitated or die. They may include living wills, durable health care powers of attorney, durable mental health care declarations, and anatomical gift forms.
Annuity
The annual payment of an allowance or income. Commercial annuities are usually issued by an insurance company or investment company in exchange for an initial monetary deposit. They can also be issued by a charity, in exchange for a donation. The purchase of an annuity can be part of an estate plan or could be part of the monetary settlement from an injury or malpractice claim.
Assisted Living
Typically a combination of apartment-style living with supportive services, designed to help older adults live in an independent setting for as long as possible. The Ohio Department of Health licenses facilities as Residential Care Facilities in the State of Ohio.
BBeneficiary
Refers to the person or entity (like a charity) who receives assets or profits from an estate, a trust, an insurance policy or any other financial vehicle from which assets are distributed after death.
DDurable Power of Attorney
A document that grants a person of your choice (usually called your agent or attorney-in-fact) legal authority to manage your financial affairs, effective immediately and whether or not you are incapacitated or incompetent.
Dying Intestate
Refers to people who die without a will. In this case, the state (probate court) will make a will for your estate.
EExecutor
The person named in a will to be in charge of finalizing a deceased person's financial affairs after death, taking care of property and assets and paying debts and taxes until the balance of the estate is transferred to the heirs, according to the will. Executors handle probate court proceedings or hire an attorney to do so on behalf of the estate. The executor will need to find all property, open estate bank accounts to receive checks or funds owed during the probate process, pay estate bills from the estate fund until it is finalized. If there is no will, the person who handles these details is appointed by the court and called an administrator, and will be required to determine who the deceased person’s heirs are, according to state law.
GGuardian
The person(s) you choose, should both parents die, to be responsible for the care, health, education, and welfare of minor children until they reach 18 years old. Guardians can also be chosen to provide care for pets should owners precede them in death. Permission should be sought of guardians in advance to be sure they are willing to take on this responsibility.
HHome Equity Conversion
A term referring to a variety of plans designed to help older homeowners use the equity in their homes without requiring them to move. The three main types are sale-leaseback, reverse mortgages, and deferred payment loans.
JJoint Tenancy
Sometimes abbreviated as JTWROS on financial documents, refers to the joint and equal ownership of property or assets by two people. Married couples with bank accounts often have joint tenancy, giving each equal access to the funds. Joint tenant accounts are also sometimes set up for an elderly person so that a caretaker or child may have access to funds to care for the person or pay their bills. Assets in joint tenancy are not required to go through probate court after death. Joint tenant accounts should only be set up when both people can be trusted absolutely to act in the other’s best interest.
LLiving Will
Considered an “advance directive” plan, a living will is a legal document that expresses your intentions about whether extraordinary life-support should be maintained by your physicians in the event you are in a terminal condition or permanently unconscious state, and grants a person of your choice (usually called your agent or attorney-in-fact) legal authority to make this difficult decision in accordance with your wishes if you are unable to do so. Living wills for most states indicate what situations warrant life-support being discontinued and require that the decision be made in conjunction with the patient’s doctor.
PPayable on Death (P.O.D.)
Refers to financial accounts that immediately transfer to a named person (beneficiary) on your death. The beneficiary has no access to the funds during your lifetime. Common Payable on Death accounts are life insurance, annuities, and retirement funds, all of which typically require that you name a beneficiary to whom the assets will immediately pass upon your death. Other accounts, like savings or checking accounts can also be set up as Payable on Death, so that the monies are not required to be dispersed by probate court.
RReverse mortgage
Also known as Reverse Annuity Mortgage (RAM). RAM is a special mortgage where a lender makes monthly payments to the homeowner in an amount determined by the age and health of the homeowner, the term of the loan, and the value of the home. Payments may be for a set period of time or for as long as the homeowner lives in the home. Some plans offer cash payments, a line of credit, and/or some combination of these. In most plans, the owner retains title to the home, and need not repay any of the money until sale or transfer of the property.
SSpringing Power of Attorney
A document that grants a person of your choice (usually called your agent or attorney-in-fact) legal authority to take action or manage your affairs on your behalf, effective only when you (the principal) become incapacitated, incompetent, or unable to manage your affairs.