Here are brief definitions of terms you may encounter if you are dealing with probate or trust real estate or inheritance property:
Beneficiary: A person who inherits when there is a will.
Conservator: A person who has the court-appointed fiduciary responsibility for the care of another adult.
Conservatee: The person whose care is provided for under a conservatorship.
Conservatorship: A court proceeding wherein a judge appoints a responsible person (conservator) to care for another person (conservatee) who cannot care for him/her self or his/her finances.
Custodian of the Will: The person in possession of the will when the person who wrote the will dies.
Decedent: The person who died.
Executor: A person named in a will and appointed by the Court to carry out the decedent’s wishes. This person is usually named as the seller of the real property.
Heir: A person who inherits. Intestate: When someone dies without leaving a will. When there is no will, the sale of the decedent’s real property often requires court confirmation.
Intestate succession: The order of who inherits the property when the decedent does not have a will.
Legatees, or Devisees: People who are named in a will.
Personal Representative (Administrator or Executor): The person responsible for overseeing the distribution of the estate.
Probate: The process of deciding where, how and to whom to distribute the decedent’s estate, such as the real property.
Probate real estate sale: The transfer of legal title (ownership) of real property from the estate of the person who has died to his or her beneficiaries or to a buyer under the supervision of the Court.
Probate referee: Before real property can be sold through probate, it must be appraised. This is done by a probate referee. In California, probate referees are appointed by the State Controller and assigned to a particular case by the court clerk. They are paid for this service directly by the estate, usually a percentage of the appraised value.
Real Property: The term used to refer to real estate (land and buildings) in probate and trust sales.
Testate: When someone dies leaving a will.
Trust: When a person (trustee) holds property at another person’s (Settlor’s) requests for the benefit of someone else (Beneficiary).
Will: A legal document that lists a person’s wishes about what will happen to his/her personal and real property after death.