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Glossary of Probate - Estates Terms

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A

Accounting A record of all property that the Personal Representative gathers into and pays out of the estate. Before closing the estate, the Personal Representative must send a full Accounting to all interested persons affected by it or ask the court to approve the Accounting. However, heirs or the beneficiaries can waive their rights to an Accounting in writing. The Personal Representative should file the signed waivers with the probate court. For more information, see Accounting.
Affidavit A document in which a person makes one or more statements under oath.
Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property A document that can be used to collect the property of the person who died without a probate if the property meets certain conditions. For more information, see Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property
Alaska Community Property This is a special form of ownership available only to spouses and only if both spouses choose to treat the property as community property under the Alaska Community Property Act. Each spouse owns half of the property while they are alive. The spouses can agree that when one spouse dies, title to the other half of the property passes automatically to the surviving spouse or passes through probate to the beneficiaries or heirs of the spouse who died.
Alaska Community Property Act The set of laws under which spouses can hold property as community property by making a special agreement or trust.
Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend A special annual payment made by the state of Alaska to persons who have been an Alaska resident for a full calendar year.
Alaska Uniform Probate Code The set of laws that governs probate and related areas.
Allowances See Family Allowance and Homestead Allowance.
Application The formal, written document submitted to a court to start an informal probate, which also asks for the court to appoint the Personal Representative. It is called the "Application for Informal Probate and Appointment of Personal Representative."
Appraisal The opinion of a professional appraiser about the value of a certain item or parcel of property.
Assignment A document that transfers the rights in property to another person.

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Beneficiary (Trust) A person for whose benefit the trustee manages trust property.
Beneficiary (Will) A person named in the Will to receive property of the person who died, also called a devisee.
Bill of Sale A document that transfers ownership of personal property to another person.
Bond A cash payment or pledge of property which guarantees that a person will fulfill his or her duties, such as the duties of Personal Representative.
Broker's Opinion of Value The opinion of a real estate broker about the value of a certain parcel of property.

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Case The general name for the matter filed in court. Also called an action, cause, or lawsuit.
Child A person's son or daughter related by blood or adoption, but not a step-child, foster child or other relative.
Claim A demand for property of the estate, Claims are usually made by a creditor, a spouse with the right to the elective share, or a person with the right to the Homestead Allowance, Family Allowance or Exempt Property. Examples of common creditor claims are mortgages, debts, unpaid goods and services, taxes, judgments and lawsuits. A claim can arise before death, at death or after death.
Claimant A person who has demanded property of the estate, usually a creditor, a spouse with the right to the elective share, or a person with the right to the Homestead Allowance, Family Allowance or Exempt Property. A claimant does not necessarily have a valid claim against the estate.
Codicil

A document that changes (or amends) a Will. It is considered to be part of the original Will. If a person makes more than one Codicil, they are all read together with the Will. A later Codicil cancels an earlier Codicil(s) in any of the following ways:

  • The new Codicil says that it cancels the old Codicil.
  • The new Codicil conflicts with the old Codicil.
  • The person does something to the Codicil on purpose to cancel it, such as burning it or tearing it up.
Community Property Property held by spouses under the Alaska Community Property Act. Each spouse owns half of the property and when one spouse dies, his or her half passes either automatically to the surviving spouse or to the beneficiaries or heirs of the spouse who died.
Conservator A person appointed by the court who holds and manages property for a person who is unable to manage his or her own property.
Creditor A person owed a debt by either the person who died or the estate. Creditors have the right to be paid from estate property, after the Personal Representative pays any Allowances or Exempt Property, but before the Personal Representative transfers the property to beneficiaries or heirs. Generally, a creditor makes a claim against the estate by filing a Claim Against Estate. Some types of creditors, however, do not need to file a claim to be paid from estate property. For more information, see Debts and Creditors.
Creditor Claim A demand for property of the estate made by a creditor.
Court Caption A caption that includes the title of the court, the city in which the court is located, the title of the action (i.e., In the matter of [the decedent's name], the case number, and the document name).
Custodian A person who holds and manages property for the benefit of another person under the Alaska Uniform Transfers to Minors Act.

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Death Certificate A document issued by the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics that lists the date, place and manner of death of a person.
Decedent The person who has died.
Deed A document that creates an ownership interest in real property.
Deed of Distribution A document prepared by a Personal Representative that transfers ownership of personal property to another person.
Deed of Trust A document that creates an interest in real property for the benefit of a lender and allows the lender to sell the property if the person violates the terms of the loan.
Demand for Notice, P-305 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo A document filed with the court by an interested person that gives the interested person the right to receive notice of every document filed with the court that has to do with the Demand.
Descendants A person's children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on, down in a direct parent-child bloodline. Any property passing to a descendant in intestacy passes by representation
Devise A gift made in a Will.
Devisee A person named in the Will to receive property of the person who died, also called a beneficiary. Unless the Will says differently, the devisee must survive the person who died by five days to receive anything.
Disclaim To refuse to accept certain property from the person who died. For more information, see "What is a disclaimer?"
Discovery The formal and informal exchange of information between sides in a case, including disclosure of relevant facts, documents or other evidence. Usually, you do not file discovery in the court. It is information for the parties to use as they prepare their cases.
Distributions Distributions are transfers of property that the Personal Representative makes to persons who are supposed to receive property under a Will or through intestacy (when there is no Will). Distributions do not include payments made to creditors. For more information, see Distribution of Estate Assets.

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Elective Share The minimum amount of estate property to which the spouse of the person who died has a right, even if the spouse is left out of the Will.
Employer Identification Number (EIN) A number assigned by the IRS to identify the estate for banking and income tax purposes, also called a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN).
Encumbrance The interest of a creditor in the property of the person who died, such as a debt, loan or lien.
Estate All property of a person who died.
Estate Tax Return A form which reports the value of estate property for federal estate tax purposes to the IRS (Form 706).
Exempt Property

Exempt property is personal property of the person who died, worth up to $10,000, that the Personal Representative must give to certain family members. Exempt property is payable to the surviving spouse of the person who died, if any. If the person did not leave a spouse, this property is divided between all children of the person who died, whether minors or adults. When calculating the $10,000, liens and debts against the property do not count toward the total value.

The spouse (or children) can choose property of the person who died from the following: household furniture, automobiles, furnishings, appliances and personal effects. But he or she cannot choose property that is left specifically to someone else under the Will unless the estate does not have enough exempt property. Exempt property passes free from creditor claims against the estate.

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Fair Market Value The reasonable price that an unrelated buyer would pay for estate property in its "as is" condition.
Family Allowance

An amount that the Personal Representative pays during the probate for the support of the surviving spouse of the person who died and the minor children who the person legally had to support and was actually supporting. The Personal Representative can pay this Allowance in one payment of up to $18,000 or in monthly amounts of up to $1,500 for up to one year. The Personal Representative can decide what reasonable support is needed, even if it is less than these amounts. However, the Personal Representative or the spouse and children can also ask the court to increase the limits if necessary. The Family Allowance passes free from creditor claims against the estate.

Federal Estate Tax The federal tax due on the transfer of all property in the estate at a person's death, including probate property and nonprobate property.
Fiduciary A legal relationship in which one person acts on behalf of another in a position of trust. A fiduciary includes a Personal Representative, Guardian, Conservator and Trustee.
Formal Probate A court process that takes place before a judge and, after notice to interested persons, allows the Personal Representative to transfer the property of a person who died to the persons who are supposed to receive it. For more information, see Formal Probate.

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General Gift A gift in a Will of a specific amount of property where the person who died did not describe from what property the gift must be made. For example, a gift of "$20,000" or "all of my real property" is a general gift. A general gift is sometimes called a "general devise."  
Gift A voluntary transfer of property or of a property interest from one individual to another by a Will, made gratuitously to the recipient. There are different classes of gifts which determine the priority for distribution. See Specific gifts, General gifts, Residuary gifts.
Guardian A person appointed by the court who physically cares for a minor child and makes all decisions that a parent could make about the child's education, health and welfare.
Guardian Ad Litem A person appointed by the court to help a minor child understand the probate process and make decisions.

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Heir A person with the right to inherit property from the person who died if the person did not make a Will. An heir must survive the person who died by five days to inherit any property.
Holographic Will A Will in which the main parts are in the handwriting of the person who died and which is signed by the person who died. This type of Will does not need to be witnessed. The person still must be 18 years or older and of sound mind.
Homestead Allowance

An amount of property, worth up to $27,000, payable to the surviving spouse of the person who died, if any. If the person did not leave a spouse, this amount is divided equally between all of the person's minor children and dependent children (even if adults). If the person did not have any minor or dependent children, then the Personal Representative does not have to pay this Allowance.

The spouse (or children) can usually choose the property that makes up the Homestead Allowance, including cash, real property, personal property or any combination. But they cannot choose property that is left specifically to someone else under the Will unless the estate does not have enough other property. Property that is not money is valued as of the date it is transferred. The Homestead Allowance passes free from creditor claims against the estate.

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Informal Probate A court process with minimal court involvement that allows the Personal Representative to transfer the property of a person who died to the persons who are supposed to receive it. For more information, see Informal Probate.
Information to Heirs and Devisees A document that the Personal Representative sends to the heirs and devisees of the person who died telling them that a probate has been opened.
Insolvent An estate that does not have enough property to pay all valid claims.
Interested Person Anyone with a legal interest in the estate, including heirs, devisees, children, spouses, creditors, claimants and those with the right to serve as a fiduciary.
Intestate Not having made a valid will. A person who dies without leaving a valid will is said to have died intestate. The property of a person who dies without leaving a valid will passes to that person's heirs in the amounts set out by Alaska law. For more information, see Death Without a Will - Intestacy.
Inventory A list of all property owned by the person who died and the value of each item of property at the time of the person's death. The Personal Representative must prepare this list within three months of being appointed and send a copy to any interested person who asks for it. For more information, see Inventory and Management of Assets.

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Jury Trial Formal court proceeding at which evidence is heard and the case is decided by a jury, which is a group of ordinary citizens who are selected to determine any question or issue of fact in a trial according to the law and the evidence introduced at trial.

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Lawyer A person licensed to practice law. You may contact the Alaska Bar Association to find out if a person is licensed in Alaska. Every state has a Bar Association, which can provide a lot of useful information about the lawyers in its state.
Letters of Administration A document that the court signs opening a probate and appointing a Personal Representative that authorizes that individual to settle the estate when the person who died did not make a Will.
Letters Testamentary A document that the court signs opening a probate and appointing a Personal Representative that authorizes that individual to settle the estate when the person who died made a Will.
Litigation A dispute that has become the subject of formal court action or a lawsuit. Each side argues their position through written motions and briefs and orally in court at hearings or a trial.

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Mediation Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which a neutral third-party facilitator (the mediator) helps people discuss difficult issues and negotiate an agreement. Parties in mediation create their own solutions and the mediator does not have any decision-making power over the outcome. A mediator may or may not be a lawyer. For more information, see Mediation.
Minor A child who is under the age of 18.
Mortgage An agreement to loan money to a person in exchange for an interest in property that secures the loan.

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Native Stock Stock in a Native corporation created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).
Nonprobate Property Property which passes automatically to someone else when a person dies. Learn more about the difference between probate property and nonprobate property.
Notice The process of letting someone know what is happening in the probate, usually by sending the person a copy of any documents filed with the court.
Notice of Disallowance A document filed with the court and sent to a claimant that states that a claim against the estate is not valid.
Notice to Creditors A document that tells creditors that the Personal Representative has opened a probate and that they have four months from the first date of publication of the notice to file claims against the estate.

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Party
Parties
The technical legal word for the people who are part of the case and have a right to ask the court to rule one way or another.
Payable on Death (POD) Beneficiary A person named on an account or other property to automatically receive the property when the owner dies.
Personal Property Personal property means all property other than real property. Tangible personal property (artwork, jewelry, tools, equipment, vehicles, furniture and similar items) and intangible personal property (cash, checks, bank, investment accounts and financial benefits).
Petition The formal, written document submitted to a court to start a formal probate and appoint the Personal Representative. It is called the "Petition for Formal Probate and Appointment of Personal Representative."
Personal Representative The person appointed by the court to handle the entire probate process, also called an executor. For more information, see Personal Representative.
Pledge An agreement that a person will give up certain property to the court if he or she does not fulfill his or her duties as Personal Representative.
Pourover Will A Will that transfers some or all of a person's probate property into an existing trust (usually a revocable trust).
Probate A court process to transfer legal ownership of property owned by the person who died to the persons who are supposed to receive it. For more information, see Background Information About Probate.
Probate Property Property that must pass through probate before it can be transferred to another person.
Property Everything that a person owns, including real property, tangible personal property, money and financial accounts.
Protective Proceeding A court process to approve a plan to manage a person's property where the person, such as a minor child, is unable to manage the property himself or herself.

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Quitclaim Deed A Deed that transfers whatever interest a person has in real property to someone else, without making any promises.

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Real Property Vacant land; a home or buildings attached to land; and in some cases an interest in land, such as mineral rights.
Receipt and Release This document confirms that the person did in fact receive the property and accepts it as his or her rightful share under the Will or through intestacy.
Representation

Any property inherited by a person's descendants in intestacy passes by "representation." This means that if a descendant dies before the person who died, that descendant's descendants inherit his or her share. For example, if the person who made the Will had four children and two of them died before the person did but left their own children, the surviving children of the person who died and the grandchildren of the deceased children share the property together.

Calculating the exact share of a descendant through representation can be complicated. If any heir died before the person who died and left his or her own descendants, it is a good idea to talk to a probate lawyer.

Residuary Gift A gift under a Will of the remainder of the property of the person who died, after specific gifts and general gifts are made. For example, a gift of "the rest of my estate equally to my children" is a residuary gift. A residuary gift is sometimes called a "residuary devise."
Restricted Property Real property granted by the Secretary of the Interior to Native Alaskans as either Native allotments or townsite lots.
Revocable Trust A trust created by a person to which the person transfers property during his or her lifetime and which can be changed at any time. Property placed into a revocable trust usually avoids probate.
Right of Survivorship The right of a surviving co-owner to take ownership of a deceased owner's share of the property. Forms of ownership that come with a right of survivorship include joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety, and community property with right of survivorship.
Rollover A reinvestment of funds.

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Secured Creditor

A secured creditor is a person who loaned money to the person who died in exchange for the right to take certain property if the person does not meet the terms of the loan. An example of a secured creditor is a bank that holds a deed of trust on real property or a finance company that holds a lien on a vehicle.

Self-Proving Will A Will where the person making the Will and the witnesses make certain statements about the signing of the Will that do not need to be "proved" to the court when the person who made the Will dies.
Settlor The person who creates a trust agreement and who transfers property to the trust, also called a grantor or a trustor.
Small Estate An estate that does not exceed a certain value and can be closed without sending a Notice to Creditors or paying creditor claims. For more information, see Small Estate.
Specific gift A gift under a Will of a specific item of property. For example, a gift of "my antique grandfather clock," "my white pickup truck" or "my checking account held at XYZ bank" is a specific gift. These gifts are made first under a Will. A specific gift is sometimes called a "specific devise."
Stock Will A Will which transfers Native corporation stock created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) to others at the shareholder's death, made by filling in the blanks on the back of the stock certificate.
Successor In an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property, any person with a right to collect property of the person who died.
Successor Personal Representative A Personal Representative who takes over for the current Personal Representative if the current Personal Representative dies, resigns or is otherwise unable to continue handling the probate.
Successor Trustee A Trustee who takes over for the current Trustee if the current Trustee dies, resigns or is otherwise unable to continue owning and managing the trust property.
Supervised Administration A special type of probate where the Personal Representative is closely supervised by the court and cannot transfer any property without court permission.
Supplementary Inventory An updated Inventory made by the Personal Representative if he or she receives additional estate property or needs to correct something on the original inventory.
Surety A person who financially guarantees that another person will perform his or her duties, such as the duties of a Personal Representative.
Surviving Spouse The husband or wife who was married to the person who died at the time of the person's death, even if they were legally separated or one spouse had already filed for divorce or annulment.
Sworn Statement The document that the Personal Representative commonly files with the court to close the estate. It is called the "Sworn Statement of Personal Representative."

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Tangible Personal Property Personal property such as furnishings, jewelry, artwork, tools, equipment and sentimental belongings, but not cash.
Tangible Personal Property Memorandum A list that passes tangible personal property to others at a person's death if the decedent signed the list and the Will refers to it.
Tax Basis The value of property on which income tax is calculated when the property is sold. The tax basis is usually the amount paid for the property but for inherited property the tax basis is adjusted to the fair market value as of the date that the person died.
Temporary Property Custodian A person who takes temporary control of tangible personal property owned by the person who died.
Tenants By the Entirety A form of property ownership available only to spouses where both spouses own the entire property together while they are alive and title automatically passes to the other spouse when one spouse dies.
Tenants In Common This form of ownership is available to two or more people, including spouses and unrelated persons. However, it is the only way that non-spouses can hold real property together. Each tenant in common owns a certain part of the property. When one tenant dies, his or her share passes through probate to his or her beneficiaries or heirs.
Testate Having a legally valid will (a testament). A person who dies leaving a valid will is said to have died testate. The decedent's property usually passes to the beneficiaries named in the will. For more information, see Wills.
Testamentary Trust A trust created under a Will that is not effective until the person who made the Will dies.
Testator The person who makes a Will.
Transfer on Death Deed A special deed that transfers property to one or more named beneficiaries effective on the transferor’s death. It must be recorded before the transferor’s death in the public records in the recorder’s office in the recording district where the property is located. Learn more about Transfer on Death Deeds.
Trust An agreement by a person who owns property (the "settlor") to give ownership of the property to another person (the "Trustee") for the benefit of one or more persons chosen by the settlor (the "beneficiaries"). For more information, see Trusts.
Trustee A person who agrees to take ownership of and control over property under the terms of a trust. Real property held by a Trustee in a trust passes without probate to the beneficiaries named in the trust.

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Uniform Transfer to Minors Act ("UTMA") The Uniform Transfers to Minors Act ("UTMA") allows a person to transfer property to a custodian for the benefit of a minor child. The custodian manages and invests the property for the child and pays as much of the property to the child or for the child's benefit as the custodian chooses. A custodian of property that passes to the child as probate property or nonprobate property must give all of the remaining property to the child when the child turns 18.

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Venue The Alaska judicial district in which a probate should be opened.
Verification A statement in a document that the person has read the document and believes that its contents are true, sworn before a notary.

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Warranty Deed A Deed that transfers title to real property to someone else and makes certain promises about title to, liens against and the right to possess the property, also called a Statutory Warranty Deed.
Will A signed document that describes a person's wishes about what should happen to his or her property and minor children after the person's death and includes all Codicils. For more information, see Wills.

Rev. 21 July 2014
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