Probate courts are a unique branch of law with centuries of precedents governing how cases are handled. When you wade into the murky waters of legal terminology, you stand little to no chance of navigating your case effectively and efficiently. Many legal words have their roots in Latin and Greek. While you likely learned some Latin and Greek roots in school, you will be unequipped to handle the terminology of a probate case on your own. Even with a lawyer who is well versed in probate diction by your side to guide you, it can still be helpful to have an understanding of a few key terms.
When the will writer dies, the will in question should be taken to court to be verified. The court convened to test and prove the authenticity of will documents is known as probate court. The term probate comes from a Latin word meaning to prove; thus, the whole purpose of the probate court is to test the authenticity of a will.
Rather than refer to the writer of a will as the will writer, probate lawyers and court officials will likely refer to the deceased as either the deceased or the decedent. Decedent is simply a noun created from the same language family as deceased and refers to someone who is no longer living.
When a person rights a will, they have to choose someone they trust to carry out the terms of the will after they die. This person is known as the executor and is charged with faithfully executing the terms of the will. While it is customary for a will writer to notify the person selected to be the executor and receive confirmation that the executor will carry out the task thus entrusted, a person selected as an executor can refuse to carry out the duties required, in which case, someone else will be selected as executor.
If a person dies without a will, the duty to dispose of the person's assets falls upon the closest living relative. If the closest living relative refuses, then it falls on the next closest relative. The administrator has many of the same responsibilities of an executor except that the administrator does not have to follow the guidelines made up in a will and may instead do as they see fit.
Distributing a decedent's property can be a sticky, contentious business, and often the best way to avoid conflicts that end in rifts and rancor is to involve the court. Probate lawyers, like Leon J Teichner & Associates, P.C., will have the legal expertise to help dispose of property in a way that respect's the wishes of the decedent, and hopefully that will be enough to keep contention at bay.