Probate Terms & Definitions


As an Executor or Administrator of an estate, it is vital to understand Probate terms & definitions. Probate has many procedures and regulations in the process of selling or purchasing probate property, and these procedures have specific steps that must be strictly followed. Without complete understanding of these terms & definitions, Probate can easily cause confusion and loss of valuable time.

The basic probate terms and definitions provided below are intended to promote a better understanding of probate and individual roles of those typically involved. It does not reflect the whole, complex landscape of actual probate procedure. To gain a greater understanding of managing, buying, or selling probate real estate, seek experts in the field. The LaRoche Team of probate real estate experts stand ready to help. Get connected with answers. Find the help of experts that thrive on serving others. Contact LaRoche probate realtors today for full details.

Helpful Probate Terms & Definitions


Beneficiary – a person who inherits when there is a Will

Conservator – a person who has the court-appointed fiduciary responsibility for the care of another adult

Conservatee – the person whose care is provided for under a conservatorship

Conservatorship – a court proceeding wherein a judge appoints a responsible person (Conservator) to care for another person (Conservatee) who cannot care for him/her self or finances

Custodian of the Will – The person in possession of the Will when the person who wrote the Will dies

Decedent – a person who has died

Executor – a person named in a Will and appointed by the Court to carry out the decedent’s wishes. This person is also the seller of the real property

Heir – a person who inherits

Intestate – a person who has died without having made a will. When there is no Will, the sale of the decedent’s real property often requires court confirmation.

Intestate Succession – the order of who inherits the property when the decedent does not have a Will

Legatees, or Devisees – people who are named in a Will

Personal Representative (Administrator or Executor) – the person responsible for overseeing the management and distribution of the estate

Probate – the formal court process to appoint a representative and marshal, as well as appraise assets and distribute the decedent’s estate to the proper parties

Probate Real Estate Sale – the transfer of legal title (ownership) of real property from the estate of the person who has died to a buyer under the supervision of the Court

Probate Referee – before real property can be sold through probate, it must be appraised. This is done by a Probate Referee. In California, probate referees are appointed by the State Controller and assigned to a particular case by the court clerk. They are paid for this service directly by the estate, usually a percentage of the appraised value

Real Property – the term used to refer to real estate (land and buildings) in probate and trust sales

Testate – having made a valid will before one dies

Trust – in real estate in the United States, a deed of trust or trust deed is a deed wherein legal title in real property is transferred to a trustee, which holds it as security for a loan (debt) between a borrower and lender. The equitable title remains with the borrower

Will – a legal document that states a person’s wishes about what will happen to his/her personal and real property after death