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Common Estate Planning Terms You’ll Want To Know

A good attorney will do everything possible to make sure you are comfortable in discussing what you wish when it comes to estate planning. Although thinking about one’s death or disability can be  uncomfortable, we are all going to pass away, sooner or later. Planning is the kindest thing you can do for those you leave behind because you do not leave as much work for them to do later. Planning and preparation is also a way to help provide security for your loved ones. Meeting with a qualified estate planning attorney will ensure you’re informed about the choices available to you. Planning can help relieve some stress knowing your affairs will be in order after your death.

 For some, this could be the first time you are meeting with an attorney. Even if it is not, it is usually the first time you have encountered many of the legal terms associated with this specific area of law. You certainly do not need to know any of the below listed terms to visit with us, but we provide these just in case it might help you feel more comfortable.


All the assets owned by someone when he or she passes away.


This is the person or organization that “benefits” from the estate, trust or asset.


A person who has passed away.

Probate (Sometimes called Death PROBATE)

The legal process used to determine if a Will’s is valid. Then the process to gather, list, assemble and transfer a decedent’s assets to the intended beneficiaries, and also to settle any outstanding debts of the person that has passed away.


A person or organization who receives a gifted asset.


A person or organization who gifts an asset to another person or entity.

 Agent (Under a Durable Power of Attorney)

The person authorized to manage one’s financial and legal affairs according to instructions and limits provided within the power of attorney document.


The person responsible for settling a decedent’s estate.


The process that of transferring assets you own as an individual into the name of your Trust.


A person who transfers an asset to a Trust.

Guardian of the Person

A person appointed by the court to care for a minor or incompetent person’s physical well-being.

Guardian of the Estate

A person appointed by the court to care for a minor or incompetent person’s financial well-being.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Authorization

Allows access to your confidential health information to whom you have designated. (This is what allows doctors to explain your medical situation to the people you wish the doctor to talk to)  Advanced Directive (In some states this is called a Living Will) 

A document containing directions for life-sustaining treatment should you become unable to communicate your wishes and are terminally ill. In other words, this is the form that states whether you wish for medical professionals to do everything possible to keep you alive, even if it is very likely that you will never again regain consciousness or whether you prefer that machines not keep you alive in such a situation.

In Texas it is important to note that this is considered to be “guidance” for your loved ones and medical professionals. It is not a legally binding document. In other words, the loved ones you have named in your Medical Power of Attorney form and medical professionals will make the decision at the time, taking into consideration your wishes stated in this form.  

Medicaid Trust

An irrevocable Trust often used in Medicaid pre-planning as a way to qualify for Medicaid benefits and protect assets in the event of a nursing home stay.


The creator of a Will.

Living Trust (Also called A/B trust, A/B/C trust, and Revocable trust)   

A legal document through which a Trustee holds property under a set of instructions given by the grantor. It can provide probate protection after death and many other benefits.


The person or entity in charge of the assets in a Trust. While you are alive, you may act as Trustee. A Successor Trustee is in charge of Trust assets at the death or mental disability/incapacity of the Trustor.

Trustor (sometimes called a  settlor)

The person who creates a Trust.


A legal document used to transfer assets owned by the decedent upon a decedent’s death


A document naming who you trust to handle your financial affairs in your place. You can choose to provide either a “springing” power of attorney or an “immediate” power of attorney.  If you choose a springing power of attorney, it “springs” into action if you are not able to mentally handle your financial affairs (for example, a car accident has left you in a coma) If you choose an immediate power of attorney, then the power of attorney starts the minute you sign the document. You need to be extremely careful who you grant an immediate power of attorney to. It should only be someone you trust absolutely, completely, without any shadow of doubt at all. Once you sign, they can do anything in your place regarding your assets and property from the moment you sign the document.   


This is a document naming who you trust to make medical decisions for you, if you are not able to speak for yourself. In Texas, you can only name one person at a time to make medical decisions for you. However, it is important that you name at least one more person to step in and make medical decisions for you in the event that the first person you name cannot be reached.


By reviewing this short list of common terms, you’ve hopefully gained more confidence as you arrange to meet with an experienced attorney. Even so, never hesitate to ask questions if the attorney uses a word or concept that you have forgotten or just aren’t familiar with. Most attorneys don’t mind this at all and actually appreciate that you care to actually know and understand! A qualified attorney in estate planning will listen carefully to your specific needs and assist you in putting together a plan that will give you security and peace of mind. Please let us know if you found this useful!  

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