Below you will find definitions for legal terms that are commonly used throughout this website.



Corporation. A corporation is a legal entity formed under the laws of a state for purposes of conducting a specific type of business. The business structure provides limited liability to its owners, known as stockholders or shareholders. The limited liability is often extended to directors, officers and employees in the Articles of Incorporation under which the corporation is formed. Shares of stock of the corporation are issued to represent ownership interests. A corporation is run by a board of directors which are elected by the stockholders. Bylaws adopted by the incorporators and/or ratified by the stockholders and the directors set out the rules and regulations which govern the corporation. State statutes govern corporate matters which are not otherwise identified or provided for in the corporation’s operational documentation.

Conservator. A conservator is a person appointed by the court to manage assets and financial matters for another person. That person can be either a minor or an adult and is called a protected person. After a conservator is appointed, he or she must identify and inventory all assets and income belonging to the protected person and take appropriate steps to make sure the assets are protected and that money, stock and cash accounts are managed for the benefit of the protected person. Detailed accounting records must be kept. Unless all assets are restricted, the conservator must file an annual accounting with the court which identifies all the assets at the beginning of the accounting year and at the end of the accounting year; the accounting also must show any change in the status of assets during the year (such as sales of property or securities); the accounting must show all the income received and the source of the income; it must show all the expenditures made and state the purpose of the expenditures.

Intestate Estate. An intestate estate is one in which a decedent did not leave a Will and the distribution of the decedent’s property is outlined by statute. Property passes according to specific provisions and lineal descent which takes into consideration the decedent’s surviving spouse and children by prior marriage.

Garnishment. A legal process by which a judgment debt can be collected by a creditor.

Guardian. A guardian has the responsibility to care for another person (either a minor or an adult) similar to the responsibility of a parent for a minor child. A guardian must see that the ward’s personal needs are taken care of, such as food, clothing, and shelter. A guardian is responsible for making medical decisions for the ward. A guardian may usually handle small amounts of money or property belonging to a without being appointed conservator.

Jurisdiction. The authority by which courts and judicial officers consider and decide legal matters; this authority is defined by statute governing the various types of legal procedures.

Limited Liability Company (also referred to as an LLC). This is a business entity formed under the laws of a state which gives its owners, known as members, limited liability for the actions and debts of the company. This type of entity has characteristics and benefits similar to a corporation but is less paper-intensive because there are less annual documentation and reporting requirements which are common with corporations.

Personal Representative. A personal representative is an individual or institution (such as a bank) appointed to administer a decedent’s estate. This administrator is also known as an executor in many places. The personal representative is appointed by a testator in his or her Will to carry out the requests of the testator and to distribute property according to the directions outlined in the Will. If the decedent did not leave a Will, the personal representative is a person identified by statute as an individual qualified to serve in this capacity.

Probate. A probate is a court procedure through which the Last Will and Testament of a decedent is submitted to the court in order that the decedent’s estate can be administered according to the terms of the Will. The administration involves identification of the assets and debts, collection of assets, payment of debts, settlement of tax matters and distribution of property to the decedent’s beneficiaries. In cases where a decedent does not leave a Will, a probate proceeding can be established for an Intestate Estate.

Tax Lien Foreclosure. A tax lien foreclosure is a court procedure to acquire title to real property in which the real property interest was acquired by means of paying the delinquent property taxes due to the state. The foreclosure process and the redemption rights of the record title holders (owners) or other interested parties are defined by statute.

Testate Estate. A testate estate in one in which a decedent left a Last Will and Testament which outlines his or her wishes, such as who will administer the estate, who will care for minor children if there is no surviving parent, who shall receive property or benefits from the estate and in what proportion.

Testamentary. Relating to or pertaining to a Will.

Testator or Testatrix. Is a man or woman, respectively, who makes a Will.

Will. A Will is a written expression or declaration of a person’s wishes regarding the distribution of his or her property after death. A will is executed with certain formalities prescribed by the laws of the state in which it is executed.

    A holographic Will is a testamentary document that is entirely in the handwriting of the testator and signed by the testator.
    A self-proved Will is a testamentary document which includes an affidavit of attesting witnesses in a form prescribed by statute.

Venue. A place or county in which something is done or an action has happened.