Definition of Terms

Administrator: The Person appointed by the Probate Court to handle the estate of a decedent who died without a will.

Administrator with the Will Annexed(Administrator C.T.A): The person appointed by the Probate Court to handle the estate of a decedent who died with a will if the executor named in the will cannot serve for some reason.

Adult: Anyone who is age 18 or over

Affidavit: Written statement of facts; the person who signs the affidavit swears an oath that the information given is true.

Allegation: A charge or claim made against someone

Beneficiary: Someone who is named in the will to receive some benefit under the will.

Bond: A written agreement that is designed to protect the assets of the estate. A bond is issued by a licensed bonding company and the cost of the bond is payable from the estate.

Child: A biological or adopted child. A stepchild does not meet the legal definition of child. A child born out of wedlock is legally considered the child of the mother and is also usually considered the child of the father for inheritance and other purposes.

Codicil: A formal, written amendment or addition to a will which has been executed and witnessed in the same manner as a will.

Decedent: The individual who has died and whose estate is being administered.

Descendant (also, Lineal Descendant): The child, grandchild, great-grandchild, etc. of an individual.

Domicile: The place where a person lives and intends to remain.

Estate: The real and personal property that a decedent owns at death, or the property of a minor or incapacitated adult.

Executor: The person named in a will to handle the decedent’s estate.

Father: The biological or adoptive father of a child; not a step-father. If the child is born out of wedlock and paternity can be proved, the biological father is also the child’s father for inheritance purposes.

Filing a Will: Anyone who is in possession of a will is required to take it to the Probate Court for filing, even if the will is not going to be probated.

Guardian: The person, who represents the interests of someone who is legally incapable of representing himself (such as a minor or incapacitated adult). This may be someone who is already the natural guardian (such as a parent) or someone appointed by the court (such as a guardian ad litem).

Guardian ad litem: A person appointed by the Probate Court to represent in a particular legal proceeding the interests of someone who is legally incapable of representing himself (such as a minor or incapacitated adult). Some probate courts require that the guardian ad litem be an attorney.

Guardian of the person: A person appointed to handle another’s day-to-day affairs.

Guardian of the property: A person appointed to handle the financial affairs and property of another.

Heir: A relative of a decedent who is entitled to inherit the decedent’s property if there is no will.

Hearing: A trial or proceeding before a judge.

Incapacitated adult: An adult who is not capable of handling his or her own affairs.

Intestate: To die “intestate” is to die without a valid will.

Leave to sell: A personal representative or guardian may need to petition the Probate Court for permission to sell property of the decedent’s or ward’s estate.

Letters of Administration: An official document issued to an executor that shows that the administrator has been formally appointed by the Probate Court to handle the decedent’s property.

Letters Testamentary: An official document issued to an executor that shows that the executor has been formally appointed by the Probate Court to handle the decedent’s property under the terms of the will.

Jurisdiction: The power of a court to hear a case.

Legal Father: A man who has a legal right to be included in the upbringing and care of a child; a legal father is one of the following:

  • A man who is married to the mother at the time a child was conceived or born;
  • A man who is not married to the mother, but acknowledges paternity and legitimates the child through a court action;
  • A biological father who acknowledges paternity and marries the mother.

Note: Naming a man as the biological father on a birth certificate, merely determining paternity through a blood test or ordering him to pay child support does not make him a legal father.

Legitimation: The process in which a man acknowledges paternity and establishes a legal father-child relationship.

Majority status: Age 18 or over.

Minor: An individual who is under age 18.

Mother: The biological or adoptive mother of a child, including a child born out of wedlock; not a step-mother

Natural guardians: The parents of a child. If the parents are separated or divorced, the parent who has custody of the child.

Notarized: Signed under oath in the presence of a notary public, who then signs the document and affixes a seal.

Notice: An official notification that a petition has been filed. People who received notice are given an opportunity to object.

Oath: Sworn statement by a personal representative that the person will faithfully fulfill his or her responsibilities as an executor or administrator

Perishable property: Property of an estate that needs immediate attention or that may deteriorate quickly.

Personal property: Any property other that land and the buildings on the land (e.g., car, furniture, money).

Personal Service: Notice given by the sheriff, who personally delivers the notice to an individual.

Personal Representative: An Executor or administrator.

Petition: A legal document that sets forth the reasons the court should get involved in a matter and asks the court to take a certain action.

Petitioner: The person who files a petition in the Probate Court.

Probate: The process of proving a will so that property may be distributed in accordance with its terms.

Pro se: To act in court on your own, without the assistance of a lawyer.

Publication: Notice of an event (such as the filing of a petition) which is give by publication in the county newspaper.

Putative Father: Man who is alleged to be the biological father of a child; putative fathers have no legal rights to the child, but can establish those rights by legitimating the child.

Real property: Land and the buildings on the land (e.g., house).

Self-proved Will: A will that has been executed in such a way that when it is probated, it is not necessary that the witness appear in court or give testimony by affidavit.

Service: Giving notice to someone who is entitled by law to be notified. Service may be by the sheriff (personal service) or by publication, by mail, or by a combination of methods.

Spouse: Husband or wife as the result of a ceremonial marriage. A common law marriage is only recognized in Georgia if entered into prior to 1997.

Subpoena: A legal document requiring a person to come to court; if you get a subpoena, you must come to court.

Sui Juris: An individual is sui juris if age 18 or over and competent.

Summons: A legal document notifying you of a court case and telling you when to come to court.

Survive: If anyone lives for any time after the decedent dies (even if only for a few minutes), that individual survived the decedent.

Temporary Administrator: An administrator who is appointed for limited purposes if there is a matter that needs immediate attention.

Testator: An individual who writes a will to tell how his or her property is to be distributed at death.

Unanimous consent: Everyone votes the same way; there are no disagreeing votes.

Waive: To give up a right.

Ward: An individual for whom a guardian of the person or guardian of the property has been appointed.

Will: The legal document by which an individual tells how his or her property is to be distributed at death.

Witness: The individual who watched the testator sign the will and then signed the will as a “witness”.