Commonly Used Terms

Conservator and Conservatorship

A conservator is appointed by the court to make financial decisions for a person who is unable to make decisions for himself or herself due to being incapacitated or incompetent. A conservator may be appointed for a person in a coma, suffering from advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, or a person who has other serious injuries or illnesses.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a way in which you can delegate to an agent the power to make financial transactions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. It is considered “durable” because it remains valid even if you become incompetent and incapacitated.

Guardian and Guardianship

A guardian is the person you appoint in your will to care for your minor children. A guardian could also be appointed for an adult who is unable to make personal care decisions due to incapacity or impairment.

Health Care Directive

A written document that allows you to name a person (agent) to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. It also allows you to inform your agent of your health care wishes.

Non-Probate Assets

Non-probate assets are the assets you own with someone else such as jointly held bank accounts and property owned as joint tenants. Non-probate assets also include assets with a beneficiary designation such as retirement accounts, life insurance, and payable-on-death accounts.

Personal Representative (executor and administrator)

A personal representative is the person you appoint in your will to administer your estate. Your personal representative will be responsible for paying your debts and distributing your assets according to your Will.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document authorizing someone to act on your behalf. The scope of authority granted is specified in the document. A power of attorney terminates on the death of the person granting the power.


Probate is the legal process of settling your estate in court after you die.

Probate Assets

Probate assets are assets that are held in your individual name, such as a checking or savings account.


An arrangement whereby property is legally owned and managed by an individual or corporate fiduciary as trustee for the benefit of another, called a beneficiary, who is the equitable owner of the property. There are many types of trusts designed to meet the unique needs of an individual or family.


The individual or bank or trust company designed to hold and administer trust property. A trustee has the duty to act in the best interests of the trust and its beneficiaries and in accordance with the terms of the trust document.


A legal document that allows you to transfer property at your death. Your will is a legal way to tell family, friends and loved ones who you want to get your personal property, who you want to take care of your estate (called a personal representative), and who you want to take care of your minor children (called a guardian).



Do you have additional estate planning questions?

Please contact Jennifer at the Spalding Law Office, and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have.