By Betty Berry, Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Q: I am trying to get my affairs in order and am somewhat confused by some of the terms associated with wills and trusts. Could you provide definitions for those terms?

A: That’s an excellent question. I’ll try to define some of the most common terms that you will likely encounter. Some may be very familiar, while others may be completely new, and some may have a slightly different meaning than you have been using.

If preparing a will is part of your plan, you should know the meaning of “testator,” “executor,” “heir,” “issue,” “minor,” “codicil” and “probate.”

A testator is the person, you, who makes a will. An executor is the person named by you in the will to carry out the provisions and directions of your will after your death.

An heir is a person who inherits or is legally entitled to inherit under state law. The term “issue” generally means your children and grandchildren and includes any adopted children you may have.

A minor is anyone under the age of legal competence. In California, the age of legal competence is 18.

A codicil is a document that modifies the will itself and must be executed in the same manner as the will it addresses.

Probate is a court process that has the purpose of protecting the heirs from fraud and embezzlement, ensures that any outstanding debts are paid and sees that all federal, state and local taxes are paid by the estate. Probate starts when the will is admitted to the probate court and ends after all debts are paid and assets accounted for and distributed.

If your plans include a trust, then you must be familiar with the terms “settlor,” “trustor,” “granter,” “grantee,” “trustee” and “intervivos,” “revocable” and “testamentary” trusts.

The terms “settlor,” “trustor” and “granter” are interchangeable and refer to the person who is creating the trust that grants the contents of the trust to another who is known as the grantee.

A trustee is the named individual or corporation having the powers spelled out in the trust to carry out the wishes of the creator.

An intervivos trust is a trust created between living people also known as a living trust and is usually revocable, which means it can be changed or revoked by the person who created it.

A testamentary trust is one that comes into being only as a result of the death of a person whose will provides for the creation of the trust after death.

I hope these definitions have been of some help. Remember that estate planning covers more than just having a will or trust. Please make sure to check into other areas of concern while completing your estate planning and never hesitate to seek professional assistance when creating these documents.


June 5: Senior Concerns Love Run 5K, 10K and 1K run/walk at 7 a.m., 2815 Townsgate Road, Westlake Village. For information, call Susan at 497-0189 or email

June 8: Seminar from 1:30 to 3 p.m., “Self Assess Your Driving Ability.” at Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive, Westlake Village, facilitated by Senior Concerns advocate. No reservations required. For information, call 495-6250.

June 17: Seminar from 1:30 to 3 p.m., “Understanding Your Medicare Coverage,” at Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. Facilitated by Senior Concerns advocate. For information and reservations, call 381-2744.

Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362. Phone 495-6250 or email (please include your telephone number). You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.

Read more:


Print Friendly, PDF & Email