Probate Terminology


Following are definitions of common probate terms. Probate is the administration of a deceased person’s estate with Probate Court oversight. The Probate Court of the county where the deceased person resided supervises the probate process. The person appointed to handle the probate process is a fiduciary.

Administrator:   A person appointed by the court to manage the assets and liabilities of an intestate decedent (a person who died without a will). An Administrator is a fiduciary.

Appraisal: The determination of what constitutes a fair price for the real estate or other personal property, such as a collection; valuation; estimation of worth. In Ohio, as of 2012, real property valuation may now be based on the county auditor appraised value if desired.

Beneficiary: A person designated to benefit from an appointment, disposition, or assignment (such as in a will, insurance policy, retirement account, etc).

Commissioner: A person appointed by the court to manage a probate release.  A Commissioner is a fiduciary.

Court costs: A sum of money required to be paid to the court clerk for the court costs of a probate proceeding (also called filing fees).

Decedent: The person who died.

Executor: A person named by a testator to carry out the provisions in the testator’s will. An Executor is a fiduciary.

Fiduciary: The person who accepts responsibility to manage another’s money or property.  The  fiduciary must exercise a high standard of care in carrying out this responsibility.

Heir:  A person who, under the laws of intestacy, is entitled to inherit property when an ancestor dies without a will.

In Kind:   Distribution in goods rather than cash.

Letters of   Authority:  The official court certified document appointing the applicant as fiduciary, with the power conferred by law, to administer decedent’s estate.

Release: A shorter probate process available for estates of smaller designated value.

Testator: One who makes and executes a will.

Will: A legal document that directs how a person’s estate is to be distributed upon death.

Will Contest: The litigation of a will’s validity, such as on claims that the testator lacked capacity or was unduly influenced when the will was executed.