Sometimes you might even believe the probate court has its own language. To help you understand this “foreign language” I have compiled a list of frequently used terms in probate court.
Attorney Ad Litem
An attorney ad litem is an attorney appointed to represent the needs of an incapacitated individual or group. As it applies to a probate proceeding, a judge may appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of a minor, a person who cannot be present, an unborn person, or an unknown heir. Although the terms guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem are often are used interchangeably, a guardian ad litem differs from an attorney ad litem in that the guardian ad litem sees to the best interests of the ward regardless of the wards wishes.
While the courts over the years have strayed away from using Latin words you will see in the probate court there are a few latin terms that are still commonly used. Ad litem in latin is “for the suit”.
Beneficiaries are those entitled to money, property or “benefits” in probate. These benefits may come from wills, trusts or the lineage of heirs as defined by the state when one dies without a will.
Beneficiaries may also be those who are intended to receive from a life insurance policy.
An executor is the legal representative of the estate. An executor can be either male or female. An executrix (as cool as it sounds ) is the feminine version of the word. The term executor is closely related to an Administrator of the Estate. An executor and administer have same duties, the difference being that an executor is named in a will while an administrator is named by the court when there is no will or when the named executor in a will cannot or will not serve.
A guardian is someone who is appointed to look after the affairs of someone who can’t handle their own affairs. A guardian can be a guardian of the person, a guardian of the estate or both. A guardian of the person handles all the personal affairs of the ward such as deciding where they live, where they can go, and who provides their medical care. A guardian of the estate handles the financial matters of the ward. This would include paying bills, investing and buying and selling property. The extent of which both a guardian of the person and a guardian of the estate are allowed to make decision for the ward is decided by the court.
A guardianship is when someone (a guardian) is appointed by the court to handle the affairs of someone (a ward) who is for some reason unable to do so for themselves.