Those reading this blog probably have the same understanding of the word “estate.” And we probably assume everyone else has that same understanding. Not so says the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. In Hartzler v. Woodruff, we are told that the word “estate” has many definitions. Let’s see a couple of those definitions.

A layperson might consider the word “estate” to refer to everything a person owns.

An attorney who drafts wills and trusts might consider the word “estate” to refer to the probate estate in its entirety.

An accountant or tax attorney might consider the word “estate” to refer to the taxable estate upon death.

While the many definitions of “estate” may seem like an extreme example, it serves as a nice reminder that we may throw around words that have developed a particular meaning within our industry but which may mean something else to laypeople or people in other industries. And this sort of division over meanings can often lead to litigation. When in doubt, it just may be worth defining these types of terms.