Leventhal Law Group, P.C., in Woodland Hills, California, serves clients in the San
Fernando Valley area. Communities include Northridge, Van Nuys, North Hollywood,
Encino, Santa Clarita, Valencia, Palmdale, Lancaster, Mission Hills, Thousand Oaks,
Simi Valley, Calabasas, Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Porter Ranch, Reseda, Tarzana, Malibu
and counties that include Los Angeles County and Ventura County.
I help people plan for the future. When you meet with me I will explain the estate
planning process and answer any questions you may have. Please browse my website,
and feel free to contact me to schedule a consultation at my Woodland Hills office.
Below, please find the definitions of many terms related to Estate Planning, Wills,
Administration: The process during which the personal representative collects the
decedent’s assets, pays all debts and claims, and distributes the residue of the
estate according to the will or state law.
Administrator: The person or corporate fiduciary appointed by the court to manage
the estate if no executor or personal representative has been appointed or if the
named executor is unable or unwilling to serve.
Annual exclusion: The amount an individual may give annually to each family member
or other beneficiary free of federal gift or other transfer taxes and without any
IRS reporting requirements. A husband and wife together can give double the amount
to each person.
Annuity: The periodic payment of a definite sum of money, with such payments to continue
for life or for a definite number of years.
Assets: All types of property that have value which can be made available for the
payment of debts.
Attorney-in-Fact: The person named as agent under a power of attorney to handle the
financial affairs of another.
Closely-Held Business: A business organization in which the ownership is held by
a limited number of people often with the same family rather than owned by the public
Codicil: A formally executed supplement, amendment, or addition to or changes in
the terms of a will not requiring the complete rewriting of the will. However, formalities
Common Disaster Clause: A statement in a will telling how property is to be distributed
if would-be beneficiaries die from the same accident as the decedent property holder.
Community Property: form of ownership under which property acquired during a marriage
is presumed to be owned jointly.
Conservator: An individual or a corporate fiduciary appointed by a court to care
for and manage the property of an incompetent person. This is similar to the way
as a court appointed guardian cares for and manages the property of a minor.
Contingency: an event that may occur, and is typically planned for.
Corpus: Trust property; the principal sum - distinguished from interest or income
as a result of the property.
Custodian: Someone who manages money or property, typically for a minor child.
Escheats: When a decedent’s property is given to the state because of lack of heirs.
Estate Planning: A process by which a person designs a strategy and executes a will,
trust agreement, or other documents for transferring his or her assets at death.
Typically , tax considerations are part of this process.
Estate Tax: A tax imposed on an estate on the right to transfer property at death.
An estate tax is to be contrasted with an inheritance tax imposed by certain states
on the beneficiary’s right to receive property. Many states have no separate estate
or inheritance tax.
Estate Tax Exemption Amount: Another name for the unified credit amount, applicable
exclusion amount, and credit shelter amount.
Estate: All the assets left by the decedent minus debts. The “probate estate” includes
all of the estate assets that fall within the jurisdiction of a given probate court.
Executor: A person named in a will and appointed by the court to carry out the terms
of the will and to administer the decedent’s estate - distribute assets, deal with
creditors, handle probate and manage other details of settling an estate.
Family Allowance: The surviving spouse and minor children are entitled to a reasonable
family allowance in cash from the estate for their maintenance during the period
of probate administration.
Family Trust: A trust established to benefit one’s spouse, children and/or other
family members. Often used in reference to a by-pass trust or credit shelter trust.
Fiduciary: An individual or a bank or trust company designated to manage money or
property for beneficiaries and required to exercise the standard of care set forth
in the document under which the fiduciary acts and/or by state law. Includes executors
Formal Probate Proceedings: Those conducted before a judge with notice to interested
persons for probate of a will or appointment of a personal representative.
Gift Deed: (Also called “deed of gift” or “gift conveyance.”) A mechanism used to
give property during the giver’s life to another person for little or no compensation.
Gift Tax: The transfer tax on lifetime completed gifts from one person to another
Grantor: A person, including a testator, who creates, or contributes property to,
a trust. The grantor is also sometimes referred to as the “settlor,” the “trustor,”
or the “donor.”
Gross Estate: For federal estate tax purposes, the total value of all property—real
or personal, tangible or intangible—that a decedent had owned or had control over
at the time of death.
Guardian: A person legally empowered and charged with the duty of taking care of
another who is incapable of managing his or her own affairs. The guardian manages
the person. A conservator manages the property of a minor or incapacitated person.
A person can be appointed both guardian and conservator.
Health Care Power of Attorney: A document appointing a person to make health care
decisions when the grantor o the power is incapacitated.
Heir: The person entitled to a distribution of an asset or property interest under
applicable state law in the absence of a will. “Heir” and “beneficiary” do not have
the same meaning, though they may refer to the same individual in a particular case.
Heirs are people who could, or do, inherit assets from a decedent under the laws
of intestacy. Beneficiaries take assets according to a will.
Holographic Will: A will in which the signature and material provisions are in the
handwriting of the testator, and which needs not be witnessed.
Informal Probate Proceedings: Those conducted without notice to interested persons
by the clerk of the court for probate of a will or appointment of a personal representative.
Life Beneficiary: A person who receives income and/or principal amounts from a trust
or similar arrangement for the duration of the person’s life.
Life Estate: A limited property interest that lasts only as long as the natural life
of its owner. A person possessing a life estate has the right to use, occupy, or
collect revenue from the property for the duration of his or her life. An estate
plan may give a life estate in trust assets to a spouse, and provide that when the
spouse dies, full title to the assets should pass to the children.
Living Trust: A trust designed to avoid probate. Unlike many other trusts, a living
trust is set up while a person is alive and is typically controlled by the person
Living Will: A document that outlines what, if any, medical means should be used
to prolong a person's life.
Pay on Death (POD): Designation is the naming of a beneficiary to receive an account
balance on a party’s death.
Per Capita: Equal shares to all who inherit.
Per Stirpes: A Latin phrase meaning “per branch” and is a method for distributing
property according to the family tree whereby descendants take the share their deceased
ancestor would have taken if the ancestor were living. Each branch of the named person’s
family is to receive an equal share of the estate.
Personal Property: Assets whose ownership arises either out of physical possession
of the property, or as the result of a document showing ownership.
Personal Representative: A person named in a will or appointed by the district court
to administer the estate of a decedent. Formerly referred to as executor, administrator.
Pour Over Will: A will used in conjunction with a revocable trust to pass title at
death to property not transferred to the trust during lifetime.
Power of Appointment: Gives a person (usually a beneficiary) the ability to choose
the recipients of property upon termination of a trust or other specified circumstances.
The person given the power is usually referred to as a “holder” of the power.
Power of Attorney: A legal document that authorizes a person to act on another’s
behalf for specific purposes and under specific conditions.
Principal: The property (money, stock, real estate, etc.) contributed to or otherwise
acquired by a trust to generate income and to be used for the trust beneficiaries
according to the trust’s terms. Also referred to as trust corpus.
Private Trust Company: Often referred to as a family trust company. An entity formed
by a family to serve as fiduciary for the estates and trusts of extended family members.
Probate: The court supervised process of proving a will and distributing property
under the will or distributing property in accordance with the law in the absence
of a will. Probate includes finding and collecting all of the decedent’s assets,
paying all of the decedent’s outstanding debts and other obligations, and distributing
the remaining estate assets to the decedent’s heirs or beneficiaries.
Property: Anything that may be the subject of ownership, whether real or personal,
legal or equitable, or any interest therein.
Prudent Man Rule: A legal principle requiring a trustee to handle the trust property
with the same care that a prudent, honest, intelligent, and diligent person would
use to handle the property under the same circumstances.
Qualified Terminable Interest Property: Property (referred to as “QTIP”) held in
a marital trust or life estate arrangement that qualifies for the marital deduction
because the surviving spouse is the sole beneficiary for life.
Real Property: Includes land and anything permanently erected on or attached to the
land, such as a house or other building. Real property means the same thing as “real
Remainder Interest: An interest in property owned by the remainderman that does not
become possessory until the expiration of an intervening income interest, life estate
or term of years.
Remainderman: One entitled to the remainder of a life estate after a particular reserved
right or interest has expired.
Residue: The property remaining in a decedent’s estate after payment of the estate’s
debts, taxes, and expenses and after all specific gifts of property and sums of money
have been distributed as directed by the will. Also called the residuary estate.
Revocable trust: A trust created during lifetime over which the grantor reserves
the right to terminate, modify, or amend.
Right of Election: The surviving spouse’s right to a share of the augmented estate
rather than accepting the amount provided by will or intestate succession statues.
The percentage is based on the length of marriage.
Right of Representation: Term used by a testator to describe the division of property
among different degrees of kinship.
Self-Dealing: Personally benefiting from a financial transaction carried out on behalf
of a trust or other entity, for example, the purchasing of an asset from the trust
by the trustee unless specifically authorized by the trust instrument.
Separate Listing of Tangible Personal Property: A list separate from the will that
identifies both the items and persons to receive them.
Settlor: Term frequently used for one who establishes or settles a trust. Same as
“trustor” or “grantor.”
Sole Ownership: Title to property in one name.
Special Needs Trust: Trust established for a disabled person and designed to allow
the disabled person to be eligible for government financial aid by limiting the use
of trust assets for purposes other than the beneficiary’s basic care.
Spendthrift Provision: A trust provision restricting both voluntary and involuntary
transfers of a beneficiary’s interest, frequently in order to protect assets from
claims of the beneficiary’s creditors.
Succession Law: Law which governs the disposition of one’s estate if there is no
Tangible Personal Property: Property that is capable of being touched and moved.
Tangible personal property is distinguished from intangible personal property that
has no physical substance but represents something of value such as cash, stock certificates,
bonds, and insurance policies. It is also distinguished from real property which
is land and items permanently affixed to land such as buildings.
Tenancy by the Entirety: A joint ownership arrangement between a husband and wife,
generally with respect to real property, under which the entire property passes to
the survivor and while both are alive, may not be sold without the approval of both.
Tenancy in Common: A co-ownership arrangement where each owner possesses rights and
owns an undivided interest in the property with no right of survivorship for the
surviving tenant in common and under which each owner may sell, give, or will such
owner’s individed interest.
Terms of a Trust: The manifestation of the grantor’s intent regarding a trust’s provisions
as expressed in the trust instrument or as may be established by other evidence that
would be admissible in a judicial proceeding.
Testamentary Trust: A trust, set up in a will, which does not become effective until
the death of the testator.
Testate: Dying with a will. A person who makes or has made a will is a “testator.”
Transfer on Death (TOD): Designation on securities that allows the naming of a beneficiary
to receive them upon death of a party.
Trust: Generally, a trust is a legal mechanism in which property is held by one
person or entity (the “trustee”) for the benefit of another person (the “beneficiary”)
pursuant to the terms of a written trust agreement. There are many different kinds
Trustee: The person, or corporate body holding title to the trust property, appointed
to execute, administer, and carry out the terms of a trust for the benefit of the