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Probate Glossary of Terms

Probate jargon can be confusing! After all, most of us didn't go to law school.

Here is a list of Probate terms that you will most likely come across most often during the Probate process:

As-is Sale - the estate will make no repairs and will provide no warranty of condition except as provided in the purchase contract.


Beneficiaries - Beneficiaries, (devisees and legatees), those entitled to receive property under a will, and known heirs, those entitled to receive property due to intestate succession if there is no will.

Community Property – Property that is owned equally between spouses.

Court Supervision - Defined as a judicial order, authorization, approval, confirmation or instructions that would be required by the court if Full Authority had not been granted.


Decedent – The person who passed with whom the estate belongs to.

Devisee – Persons names in a will who are to receive real property (home/condo/land).

Executor (See Personal Representative) – An executor is someone named in the will of the decedent to oversee the distribution of the decedent’s estate.

Final Decree – the written final order by the judge in a probate ordering how the remaining assets are to be distributed, compensation to be paid to the personal representative and the attorney, as well as other matters.

Full Authority –Personal Representative has “Full Authority” to perform most duties (including the sale of real property) without the court’s supervision. The opposite of this is "Limited Authority".

Heirs – An heir is a beneficiary when the decedent dies "intestate", without a will. There is a specific order (hierarchy) of heirs that assets of community property & separate property will be distributed to if no will. This order can be found under California Probate Code 6401 & 6402.


Intestate – the Decedent has died without a will or has died “intestate”.

Intestate Succession – the order in which heirs have rights to the estate if no will is present starting with the surviving spouse. There is an order to the succession which is found under California Probate Code 6401 & 6402.

Legatee - Legatees are persons named in the will who are to receive personal property or money.

Limited Authority – The personal administrator of the estate is subject to court oversight and must get the court’s permission to sell real property as well as personal property (and other duties).


Order of Distribution – SEE FINAL DECREE


Personal Representative – A person or persons who have been appointed by the court to oversee the distribution of the estate during the Probate process.


Probate – The process by which a decendent’s estate is settled and its assets distributed by the court after their passing. 

Probate Referee – The appraiser appointed by the court to appraise the estate’s value (including real property and any other personal possessions).

Real Property – The term real property refers to land, and any buildings, structures, and equipment permanently attached or fixed to the land.

Separate Property – Property owned by the decedent that the beneficiary is not on title for.

Testate -  A decedent has died leaving a will.

Trust – Is a legal document creating an entity in which real property and other assets of the decedent(s) are held along with instructions on its distribution in the event of a death by the named owner(s) of the trust. It is a legal and recorded document.

Will – A will is a written, dated and signed document by the decedent stating their wishes for how their estate will be handled and distributed after their passing.

Disclaimer: In no way should this be considered legal advice. It is always best to consult with a legal professional when dealing with issues regarding Probate.  Upon request, we would be happy to refer you to experts in this field.

Michel Bron and his Bron Realty Group team have been successfully representing hundreds of Buyers and Sellers of Houses, Condos, and Income Properties in the Greater Los Angeles area since 2000. From Santa Monica, Culver City, Brentwood, Bel-Air to Beverly Hills, Hancock Park, Beverlywood, Los Feliz and Silverlake. And from Studio City to Sherman Oaks and Encino all the way to the West Hills and Thousand Oaks.

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