Glossary of Legal Terms


  • Assets - something having value owned by a person or a company, such as checking accounts or real estate.
  • Durable Power of Attorney - a legal document which gives an individual the ability to make decisions in the case that you become incapacitated and cannot handle matters yourself.
  • Estate Planning - setting up a process for the transfer of a person’s wealth and assets after his passing.
  • Estate - the sum of an individual’s assets, i.e., his net worth.
  • Estate Plan - a highly individualized set of documents created by an experienced trust and estate lawyer based on your unique situation and circumstances.
  • Estate Tax - a tax imposed on the value of a deceased individual’s estate before it is passed onto his heirs.
  • Gift - A lifetime transfer of property without receiving a payment.
  • Gross Estate - For federal estate tax purposes, the gross estate is the total value of all property, real or personal, tangible or intangible, that a descendant had owned or had control over at the time of death.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney - a legal document which allows you to appoint a trustee to make decisions about your health care if you become unable to do so.
  • Heir - anyone who is named to receive property in a will. If a person dies without a will, the heir is the person that is entitled to inherit the property of a descendant based on the state intestacy laws.  
  • Inherit - To receive property from a deceased person.
  • Intestate - To die without a will.
  • Life Estate - A condition created where a person has the right to use property only for his or her lifetime.
  • Liquidity - Liquidity refers to the ease with which an asset, or security, can be converted into ready cash without affecting its market price.
  • Marital Deduction - An estate or gift deduction allowed for property transferred to a living spouse. 
  • Recorded Deed - A deed that has been filed with the county land records, which in turn creates a public record of the changes in ownership of property in the state.
  • Quitclaim Deed - A document that allows you to transfer title to real estate. With a quitclaim deed, the person transferring the title makes no guarantees, but transfers his/her interest in the property.



  • Child Health Plus - a subsidized program that will provide health coverage for children up to 18 years old.
  • Dual Eligibility - refers to the state of those who qualify for both Medicare (designed for the elderly) and Medicaid (designed for the impoverished) benefits.
  • Elder Law - an area of law dealing specifically with older people; mainly pertains to estate planning, wills, trusts, care arrangements, social security and medicaid planning, retirement benefits, and protection against elder abuse.
  • Family Health Plus - a program for people between the ages 19 and 64 who are not eligible for Medicaid but have no other means to obtain health insurance.
  • Home Care - support provided for the elderly or disabled within their own home.
  • Individual Retirement Account (IRA) - a bank account to which an individual may make deposits to save for his retirement with tax-free or tax-deferred growth.
  • Life Insurance - insurance that, upon the death of the insured person or the completion of a set time period, pays a lump sum of money.
  • Managed Long-Term Care (MLTC) - a system that ensures long-term healthcare benefits to those who are chronically ill or disabled, and wish to remain in their homes.
  • Medicaid - a program involving both federal and state governments that provides health insurance to people with low income.
  • Medicaid Planning - a form of legal planning in which assistance is given to help a Medicaid applicant prepare for his application.
  • Nursing Home Planning - A form of legal planning designed to assist the elderly with handling Nursing Home costs while protecting their assets.
  • Senior Citizens - Elderly individuals usually more than sixty-five years old.


  • Beneficiary - a person who receives benefits, usually in the form of assets and property, from a trust.
  • Coercion and Undue Influence - occurs when the decedent was influenced through coercion, duress, or fraud to place the wishes of another individual, rather than his own, into his will; may result in the will being found invalid.
  • Codicil - a document that contains a change to a will.
  • Decanting (of a trust) - when the assets of one trusts are transferred into a new trust.
  • Decedent - a person who has died.
  • Donor’s Tax - a tax imposed on a gift or donation.
  • Executor - an individual chosen by the testator to carry out the terms of his will.
  • Fiduciary - another word for a “trustee.”
  • Living Will - a legal document that states your expressed wishes for medical care if you were to be under certain medical circumstances.
  • Testator - an individual who has made a will.
  • The “Sound Mind” Requirement - requires that the decedent understands: (1) what he owns, (2) who his family is, and (3) what his will provides.
  • Trust - A financial relationship existing between three people: the “trustor/grantor” , the “trustee”, and the “beneficiary.” As an advantage over wills, a trust does not have to go through probate.
    • Dynasty Trust - a type of trust that is unique in that it is designed to pass wealth from generation to generation without incurring transfer taxes, like the estate and gift taxes.
    • First-Party Special Needs Trusts (Self-Settled) - a type of trust usually reserved for individuals with special needs who have assets of their own and would like to preserve their wealth in a trust, while still qualifying and receiving public assistance benefits. The assets used to fund the trust must come from the beneficiary himself, thus making it “first-party.”
    • Irrevocable Trust - a type of trust that cannot be modified at all without the permission of the beneficiary, thereby stripping away the asset ownership rights of the trustor.
    • Pooled Income Trust - a type of trust through which individuals may become eligible for public assistance benefits, like Medicaid, while still retaining their monthly income for living expenses; it is often used by those whose incomes are above the Medicaid Income Level requirements.
    • Revocable Living Trust - a type of trust that is made in your lifetime, hence “living,” that may be changed as you wish.
    • Third-Party Supplemental Needs Trusts - a type of trust in which assets are deposited by a “third-party” donor for the benefit of the beneficiary, who receives income from the trust to supplement his public assistance benefits. The trust is considered to be advantageous over the First Party SNT and Pooled Income Trust because, upon the beneficiary’s death, the government is not entitled to be reimbursed for Medicaid payments made on behalf of the beneficiary.
  • Trustee - a person who is entrusted by the Trustor to oversee and manage the trust to the benefit of the beneficiary.
  • Trustor/Grantor - a person who initiates a trust and settles his assets and property to a trustee for the benefit of his beneficiary.
  • Will - a legal document that not only dictates how your estate will be allocated after your death, but also allows you to appoint guardians for minors.


  • Administration of Estates - occurs when a person dies without a legal will; refers to the oversight of one’s assets and property under court supervision by an individual qualified and legally appointed for the role.
  • Bond(s) - A signed and witnessed obligation, the conditions of which might include the proving of a will, administration of an intestate’s estate, rendering an account or inventory, or guardianship of a minor.
  • Estate Litigation - any claim or contest to an individual’s will, arising either when a creditor claims that money is owed to him by an heir of an individual’s will, or when an heir believes that the will is invalid.
  • Intestate - An individual who dies without leaving a legal will.
  • Letters of Testamentary - a document granted by a court that informs an individual of his status and powers as the legal executor for a particular estate.
  • Non Probate Property - Assets that are not subject to the probate process, such as life insurance benefits, and property owned jointly with a right of survivorship.
  • Personal Representative - person named in a will or appointed by the court to administer an estate.
  • Petition - A written, formal request, properly filed with the court, for a specific action or order (e.g., petition for probate, petition for conservatorship, etc).
  • Probate - the process through which a will is proved valid in court; it is often long and costly.
  • Small Estate Administration - A simplified administrative procedure with little court involvement and few costs for estates with limited value.
  • Surrogate’s Court - a court designed to specifically handle all probate and estate proceedings.
  • Tenancy by the Entirety - Real Property ownership usually by a Husband and Wife whereby each owns the undivided 100% of the property, together with the Right of Survivorship, so that upon the death of one spouse, the survivor is entitled to inherit 100% share.
  • Tenants In Common - Real Property ownership where each person owns a specified proportion of rights in real property and upon the death of a tenant in common, that share is transferred to the estate of the deceased tenant and not to the other tenant.


  • Asset Protection - the process of safeguarding one’s wealth against those who may have claims against it, such as creditors and litigants, and eventually passing it onto heirs with minimal taxes and no court proceeding.
  • Creditors - an entity to whom money is owed.
  • Liability - a debt or financial obligation; something for which an individual is responsible.
  • Lien - the legal right to control another person’s property until the debt owed by that person is repaid.
  • Litigant - an individual involved in a lawsuit.


  • Felony - a serious crime that is usually punishable by imprisonment or death.
  • Grand Larceny - theft of personal property.
  • HRA -  Human Resources Administration, in charge of initiating investigations of Medicaid Fraud
  • Medicaid Fraud - refers to any intentional deception or misrepresentation of the Medicaid system that results in excess payment, usually to the benefit of the Medicaid provider and unknown to the Medicaid patient.
  • Unearned Income - any income coming from rental income, gifts, support, gains from stocks, interests, etc.


  • An Incapacitated Person (AIP) - an individual who is deemed by the court to be unable to care for himself or manage his own property or financial affairs, either because of disability or old age.
  • Conservatorship - a legal process through which a guardian or protector is court-appointed to manage the affairs of an Incapacitated Person; similar to guardianship.
  • Guardianship - a “guardian” is an individual who is chosen to make legal decisions for an individual who is unable to, often a child or an incapacitated individual.
    • Article 17A Guardianship - used to appoint a guardian for an intellectually or developmentally disabled person - suffering from cerebral palsy, autism, or other neurological impairments - who contracted his disability in childhood.
    • Article 81 Guardianship - used to appoint a guardian to assist an allegedly incapacitated person to manage his property and financial affairs.


  • Fair Hearing - a hearing called so as to give each party the rights they are entitled to by the law.
  • Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) - a government-back program that assists low-income individuals with covering the cost of heating their homes.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - a government-backed program offering financial assistance for the purchase of food to low-income individuals and families.


  • Attorney - an individual chosen to act for another in business and/or legal matters.
  • Business Continuation Planning - a form of financial planning in which business risks and threats are analyzed while drafting a strategy to protect personnel and assets in the event of a financial disaster.
  • Corporate Officer - a high-ranking management official in a corporation.
  • Corporation - a corporate structure in which a company or group function as a “legal person;” individuals are not subject to personal liability.
  • Deed - a legal document that conveys one’s ownership of property.
  • Lawyer - an individual that practices law.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) - a relatively recent corporate structure that combines the limited personal liability of corporations with the flexibility of sole proprietorship.
  • Liquidity - a term that measures how easy it is to convert a certain asset into cash.
  • Shareholder - an individual who owns shares in a company.
  • Tax Planning - a form of financial planning through which one avoids paying excess taxes and reduces tax liability.