October 21-27, 2019 is National Estate Planning Awareness week, which was originally adopted in 2008 with the intention of educating the public on what estate planning is and why it is vital for financial well-being and peace of mind. According to the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils (NAEPC), estate planning is an often overlooked necessity and it is estimated that over half (56%) of Americans do not have an up-to-date estate plan.

Addressing end-of-life issues is extremely stressful but also has the added confusion of trying to understand common estate planning/elder law terminology. You have probably heard terms such as “conservator” or “beneficiary” when all you really want is to understand what needs to be in place, who takes care of what and what needs to get done now.

To better understand some of the more common estate planning/elder law terms, an alphabetical glossary list with definitions is listed below for your convenience:

  • Advanced Directive Legal documents that allow you to spell out your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time.
  • Assisted Living A housing facility for those with disabilities or that can no longer live independently; also provides assistance with personal, daily activities
  • Beneficiary A person that is named in a will or trust or designated on an account to inherit benefits or property
  • Bequest A gift or property given by a will
  • Codicil An addition to a will that can further explain, modify or revoke it/part of it
  • Cognitive Impairment A breakdown in a person’s mental state
  • Conservator A guardian or protector that is appointed by the court to manage the financial affairs of another
  • Durable Power of Attorney Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that authorizes a person (an agent) to represent or act on another’s (a principal) behalf. A Durable Power of Attorney grants continued authority to the agent until the grantor’s death
  • Elder Abuse An intentional or negligent act by a person or a caregiver that harms or puts an older person at risk
  • Elder Care Laws, programs and support systems that find ways to meet the needs of the elderly such as housing, long term care and health insurance
  • Estate Assets of an individual such as real estate, bank accounts and personal property which are titled in the individual name of a ward or decedent
  • Fiduciary A representative, person or institution that manages assets and/or is responsible for the well-being of another
  • Grantor A person that sets up a living trust
  • Intestate When a person dies without a valid will, the estate then passes to their heirs in accordance with laws of intestacy
  • Joint Tenancy Property that is co-owned by two or more parties
  • Lady Bird Deed A deed that allows an owner to retain certain control over their property until death, after which the title is transferred automatically to the named beneficiaries without need for probate
  • Living Trust A living trust is set up and remains in effect during the lifetime of the grantor
  • Living Will A living will states the wishes of an individual regarding life support or medical decisions when death seems imminent
  • Long Term Care A variety of services that can be provided at home or in facilities that help meet the health, personal, daily needs of people that cannot care for themselves over long periods
  • Marital Deduction A federal tax law that allows a person to give assets to his or her spouse with reduced or no taxes imposed on the transfer
  • Medicaid A “needs-based” state and federal program that helps pay for some or all medical expenses, depending on income
  • Medicare A federal program that provides health insurance for seniors 65+ with disabilities associated with advanced age
  • Probate Legal process in which a will is “proved” valid in a Court of Law and property may be transferred to heirs or beneficiaries via authority of the court
  • Testator A person who creates a will, also known as Testatrix
  • Trust An entity created to manage property, established by the grantor on behalf of his or her beneficiaries
  • Trustee The individual or institution that manages the property put into a trust on behalf of others
  • Will A legal document that expresses a person’s wishes as to how their assets may be distributed upon their death and appoints a personal representative to carry out these wishes