When you walk into an Orange County estate planning lawyer’s office, you are going to hear some terms that are either completely new to you or that sound like something out of an old movie. It’s a good idea to have some understanding of these terms ahead of time so that you aren’t spending your time doing anything other than what you hired him or her to do.
That said, if you ever have any questions regarding terminology, be sure to ask your Orange County estate planning attorney so you absolutely understand the choices you have and the decisions you’re making.

• Administration: This is the term used to refer to the process of settling an estate and includes a number of tasks ranging from doing an inventory of assets to distributing them according to the will or probate court’s instructions.
• Assets: Anything owned or controlled by a person that can be used to produce value. This might include, but is not limited to, real estate, vehicles, investments, and personal property.
• Beneficiary: A person named in an insurance policy, retirement account, will, or other legal document to receive ownership of the deceased’s assets.
• Bequest: A gift designated to go to a particular individual or group, usually designated in a will.
• Death Tax: A commonly-used term to refer to taxes imposed by the federal government that must be paid out of an estate.
• Guardian: The person appointed to get custody of a minor child and/or the child’s property should the parents be killed or become incapacitated. (Can refer to those named to provide for others who are not minors, as well.)
• Heir: Someone who is entitled to inherit from the deceased.
• Probate: The process of closing an estate through the courts that begins with the validation of the will and continues until the assets have been distributed.
• Trust: A method for legally holding and managing property for the benefit of a named beneficiary.
• Will: A legal document that provides instructions for how a person’s property should be distributed after his or her death.

It’s worth noting that estate planning terms do change over time. What may have once been called an “administrator” may now be the “personal representative,” for example. Again, if you have any questions about the terminology being used, don’t hesitate to ask your Orange County estate planning lawyer for clarification for how terms are used in this state.