The law can often get complicated and technical, and this is as true during the probate process as it is in other areas of law. If you’re embarking on the probate process in Missouri and find yourself confused by the probate-related legal terms you’ve been encountering, this guide should help.
A Short Glossary of Probate-Related Legal Terminology
The following are some of the terms you’re likely to come across during the probate process. Note that you might have to understand the full legal meaning of a term in certain circumstances, so it’s always best to consult with a probate attorney for guidance.
Claim. In the probate process, a claim typically means a claim made by a creditor against the estate for a debt owed by the decedent at the time of the decedent’s death. A claim can also be made for funeral costs, including the cost of a tombstone, estate administration expenses and costs.
Claimant. The person or entity making a claim against the estate.
Decedent. The term used to refer to the diseased person whose estate is undergoing probate.
Devise. A term that can be used as either a noun or a verb:
- When used as a noun, it means a disposition of real or personal property under the terms of a will.
- When used as a verb, it means to dispose of real or personal property by will.
Distributee. A distributee is a person entitled to real or personal property:
- under the terms of the will
- where there is no will, in accordance with the laws of intestate succession
- where the person is a surviving spouse, under section 474.160, upon election to take against the will
Distribution. The division and transfer of the estate’s assets to the persons entitled to inherit such assets in accordance with the terms of the will or, where there is no will, in accordance with the laws of intestate succession.
Estate/Probate estate. The real and personal property owned by the decedent at the time of death that’s subject to probate.
Heir. A person who is entitled to the decedent’s real or personal property in accordance with the rules of intestate succession if the decedent died without a will.
Intestate. Dying without a will or a person who dies without a will.
Intestate succession. How inheritances are determined if a decedent dies without a will.
Legatee. A person who is entitled to receive personal property under the terms of a will.
Letters of administration. The document issued by the probate court giving the personal representative the authority to administer the estate where the decedent died without a will.
Letters testamentary. The document issued by the probate court giving the personal representative designated under the terms of the will the authority to administer the estate.
Personal representative/executor/administrator. The person appointed by the probate court to administer the estate.
Consult a Probate Lawyer for Assistance
Depending on the circumstances, the probate process can be complex and time-consuming. If you’re in need of legal guidance during this process, a probate attorney at Parks & Jones can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.