When it comes to probate, things can get a little overwhelming, this probate glossary should help. Of course, understanding probate isn’t just about terms, but understanding these terms makes understanding the process a little easier.

Probate Glossary: The Terms You Need to Know During Probate


Administration is the authority that is given to an administrator to settle an estate. This term is also used to refer to the process of probate when someone dies intestate.


An administrator is an individual assigned by the probate court to handle an estate if the owner of the estate dies without a will in place.


A beneficiary is someone who will benefit from the estate of the deceased.


A bondsman is someone who “puts up” money on behalf of another as a form of guarantee. In probate, the court may require that the administrator get a probate bond before they begin serving as the estate administrator. This is a means of guaranteeing that the administrator will carry out the duties required of them responsibly and to the best of their ability.


A codicil is an addendum to a will.

Community Property

Community property refers to the idea that property that is purchased by a husband and wife after their marriage is considered to be the property of both the husband and the wife. The idea of community property is not recognized in all states, in fact, at this time only Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington are community property states.


A conservator is an individual who is assigned to manage the affairs of someone who is deemed incompetent and unable to handle their own affairs.


When it comes to the probate process, the term “contest” refers to the disputing or contesting of the will. A will can be contested for a number of reasons depending upon the state in which the will was written.


The decedent is a term that refers to the individual who has passed away.


A devisee is someone who receives real property through a will.


The term “distributions” refers to how the assets of the estate in question are allocated or “distributed”.


The estate is a term that refers to the real and personal property that is left by the deceased.


A fiduciary is an individual who is charged with holding assets for another individual. For example, a trustee is a fiduciary.


In probate terms, a guardian is someone who is appointed by the court to manage the affairs of someone who is unable to manage their own affairs. For example, a guardian may be appointed to manage the affairs of a child.


An heir is someone who inherits property when the owner of that property dies.


Intestate refers to a situation where someone dies without having a valid will in place.


An inventory is an itemized list of property in the estate in question and the value of each piece of property

Joint Will

A joint will refers to a will that is written and signed by both partners in a marriage, however, this type of will is not commonly used and is not recognized as valid in all states. In Florida, for example, the joint will is not recognized.


A legacy is the gifting of property (real or personal) through the decedent’s last will and testament.

Letters of Administration

Letters of administration are given to the administrator of the estate by the probate court giving them official authority to manage the estate of the decedent.

Letters Testamentary

Letters testamentary refers to a document that approves the appointment of an executor of the estate and assigns them the authority to administer the estate.


Notices are published upon the death of an estate owner to inform creditors and others who may have an interest in an estate of the estate owners passing. This allows them to contact the attorney representing the estate or to collect debts owed to them.

Per Capita

When assets of an estate are distributed among heirs in equal shares they are said to be distributed “per capita”.

Per Stirpes

Per stirpes refers to the concept of the heirs of a beneficiary receiving that beneficiaries’ share of an estate if the beneficiary dies before the estate owner.


Probate is a word that refers to anything pertaining to the administration of an estate.

Settlements (or Final Account)

This is the final accounting of the estate and how that estate was distributed.


Testamentary is a word that is used to describe matters or items that relate to the will.


A testator is a person who makes the last will and testament.


A trustee is someone who holds the title to property in a trust on behalf of someone else when limitations prevent the beneficiary of the trust from taking control of that property themselves. For example, if a parent sets up a trust that says their child may not have access to money that has been left in a trust for them until the child graduates from college, a trustee is appointed to hold control of that trust until that child graduates college.

Need More Than a Probate Glossary to Get Through Probate?

If you’re going through the probate process and need help with more than just the probate terms in our probate glossary, probate attorney, Matt Weidner can help! Just pick up the phone and call Weidner Law at 727-954-8752.

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