Glossary of Terms Used in This New Jersey Wills Website

Vocabulary words have meaning both in life and in the law. Below I have listed the most frequently used terms on this page of our wills website and what each word means. The terms are listed in alphabetical order. I am certain this glossary will be of assistance to your reading.

  • Bond – An insurance policy that protects a beneficiary(ies) named in the will should the executor wrongfully misappropriate or abandon their responsibility when distributing estate property.
  • Codicil – A document that adds to, amends, subtracts from, modifies, explains, revokes, or otherwise changes provisions of an existing will without creating an entirely new Last Will.
  • Decedent – A person who died with an executed Last Will.
  • Descendants – Immediate family members with a direct bloodline relationship following downwards from you, starting with your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  These descendants are called your lineal descendants. Descendants are those in a descending line of birth from an individual, rather than an ascending line, such as the parents of the individual.
  • Estate – Everything owned by you at the time of death, including personal belongings, personal property, real estate, savings, investments, life insurance, business interests, and employee benefits.
  • Executor – The person named in your Last Will who is responsible for handling and distributing your estate according to the terms of your will; also called a “personal representative” or “administrator.”
  • Executorship – A legal relationship created when a court appoints someone as the executor of an estate.
  • Fiduciary – A person to whom property or a protected legal interest is entrusted for the benefit of another(s).
  • Fiduciary Duty – A legal duty to act in the best interests of a person(s).
  • Guardian – A person named in a will to have physical and legal custody of a minor child or incapacitated person in the event of the testator’s death.
  • Guardianship – A legal relationship created when a court grants physical and legal custody of a person to another person or entity.
  • Heir/Heirs at law – A person who is entitled to inherit property by law, rather than under a will, pursuant to the Laws of Descent and Distribution (found in NJ statutes often referred to as “intestate succession”). This occurs when someone dies without a will or with a will that does not name any living beneficiaries.
  • Inter Vivos – Latin for “between the living” and it refers to something done while you are still alive. The following is an example of where you might commonly see this language used in a will or other estate planning document: “I give my red car to my sister if she survives me. However, if I no longer have my red car because I gave it away intervivos to my son when I was alive – I give her whatever vehicle I have when I die instead.”
  • Intestate – A person who dies either (1) without a will or (2) with a will that names only beneficiaries who have predeceased the decedent.
  • Issue – A decedent’s child(ren), grandchild(ren), great-grandchild(ren), etc., out to the remotest degree.
  • Jurisdiction – The court’s power to hear, decide, and enforce orders in a case.
  • Legitimation – An act that gives the status of legitimacy to a child born to unmarried parents, such as subsequent marriage of the parents, paternity proceeding, or adoption.
  • Per Capita – A beneficiary who directly takes in their name an interest in an estate.
  • Personal Representative – see “Executor.”
  • Per Stirpes – Individuals who are members of a group or class (i.e., children, grandchildren) who inherit property as survivors of a deceased parent, grandparent, etc.
  • Pretermitted – An heir who was born after a will was drafted, but before the death of the testator.
  • Probate – The process by which a decedent’s estate is administered through the legal system after he/she has died. The County Surrogate and Superior Court of NJ has jurisdiction over this process.
  • Remainderman – A person who inherits or who is entitled to inherit property upon the happening of a specified event such as the death of a beneficiary.
  • Residue/Residuary Estate/Remainder – That portion of a decedent’s estate remaining after all debts, expenses, taxes and specific bequests (gifts) have been satisfied.
  • Situs – The physical location where real and/or personal property is located for legal purposes.
  • Testamentary Trust – A trust found within a decedent’s Last Will that begins after the testator’s death and takes legal title to the testator’s assets.  A testamentary trust is managed by a trustee to provide financially for the benefit of named beneficiary(ies) until the trust expires and/or all funds have been distributed.
  • Testator – A person who has signed a legally binding Last Will and Testament. After the testator dies, he or she is also commonly referred to as the “decedent” or “deceased.”
  • Trustee – The person or entity appointed to oversee and manage the day-to-day affairs and finances of property owned by a trust.
  • Ward – A minor child or incapacitated adult of whom a guardian has legal custody.
  • Will – A legal document that provides specific instructions for how a testator’s assets should be distributed.  A will names an executor, names the guardian(s) of any ward(s) of the testator and sets forth any other final wishes of the testator; also referred to as a “Last Will and Testament.”

Fredrick P. Niemann Esq.

Have an additional question(s) about a Last Will? If so, call our office today. Ask for Mr. Niemann to personally discuss your questions and individual situation toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or e-mail him at




Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, New Jersey Last Will Attorney

Estate planning attorney serving these New Jersey Counties:

Monmouth County, Ocean County, Essex County, Cape May County, Camden County, Mercer County, Middlesex County,
Bergen County, Morris County, Burlington County, Union County, Somerset County, Hudson County, Passaic County