Glossary of Important Probate Terminology


Beneficiary – a person who receives benefits and inherits if there is a will

Conservator – a person who has the court-appointed fiduciary responsibility for the care of another adult

Conservatee – the person whose care is provided for under a conservatorship

Conservatorship – a court proceeding wherein a judge appoints a responsible person (Conservator) to care for another person (Conservatee) who cannot care for him/her self or finances

Community Property - property acquired by a couple during their marriage except by gift or inheritance

Decedent – a person who has died

Executor – a person named in a Will and appointed by the Court to carry out the decedent’s wishes. This person is also the seller of the real property

Heir – a person who inherits property through a will, or from another who died without leaving a will

Intestate – a person who has died without a will

Intestate Succession – the order of who inherits the property when the decedent does not have a Will

Kindred - all persons described as relatives of the decedent under the California Probate Code. 

Personal Representative (Administrator or Executor) – the person responsible for overseeing the management and distribution of the estate

Probate – the formal court process to appoint a representative and marshal, as well as appraise assets and distribute the decedent’s estate to the proper parties

Probate Real Estate Sale – the transfer of legal title (ownership) of real property from the estate of the person who has died to a buyer under the supervision of the Court

Probate Referee – before real property can be sold through probate, it must be appraised. This is done by a Probate Referee. In California, probate referees are appointed by the State Controller and assigned to a particular case by the court clerk. They are paid for this service directly by the estate, usually a percentage of the appraised value

Real Property – the term used to refer to real estate (land and buildings) in probate and trust sales

Testate – having made a valid will before one dies

Trust – in real estate in the United States, a deed of trust or trust deed is a deed wherein legal title in real property is transferred to a trustee, which holds it as security for a loan (debt) between a borrower and lender. The equitable title remains with the borrower

Will – a legal document that states a person’s wishes about what will happen to his/her personal and real property after death


Source of Information: Superior Court of California

Glossary of Common Probate Terms Disclaimer: The intent of this glossary is to provide the layperson with a general understanding of terms commonly used in Probate Law. The definitions within this document are not comprehensive and are not intended to serve as a substitute for independent research of the law.