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Glossary of Terms

Circuit Court: A state court that holds sessions at several different places within a judicial district.

Come of age: Attain full legal age. This is the age in which a person becomes responsible for his/her own actions (including the capacity to enter into a contract which is enforceable by the other party), for damages for negligence or intentional wrongs without a parent being liable, and for punishment as an adult for a crime. In almost all states the basic legal age is 18, which is the universal American voting age under the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1971. States' laws vary as to legal age for drinking or buying alcoholic beverages, marriage with or without parental consent, driving, prosecution for crimes, the right to choose an abortion, and liability for damages.

Decedent: A person who has died, sometimes referred to as the "deceased."

Estate: The whole of one's possessions, especially all the property and debts left by one at death.

Executor: The person appointed to administer the estate of a person who has died leaving a will which nominates that person. The executor must insure that the person's desires expressed in the will are carried out.

Fraud: The intentional use of deceit, a trick or some dishonest means to deprive another of his/her/its money, property or a legal right.

Guardian: One who is legally responsible for the care and management of the person or property of an incompetent or a minor.

Heir: A person who inherits or is entitled by law or by the terms of a will to inherit the estate of another. Inheritance: To receive something (property or a title, for example) from an ancestor by legal succession or will.

Inheritance: That which is inherited; a title or property or estate that passes by law to the heir on the death of the owner.

Judicial system: The system of law courts that administer justice and constitute the judicial branch of government; Of, relating to, or proper to courts of law or to the administration of justice.

Jurisdiction: The right and power to interpret and apply the law.

Mortality: Death

Minor: One who has not reached full legal age (see "Come of age").

Probate: The legal process of establishing the validity of a will and settling an estate.

Testamentary Capacity: Having the mental competency to execute a will at the time the will was signed and witnessed.

Undue Influence: The amount of pressure which one uses to force someone to execute a will leaving assets in a particular way, to make a direct gift while alive, or to sign a contract.

Will: A legal declaration of how a person wishes his or her possessions to be disposed of after death.