Legal terms found in wills and court records can be confusing. The following table give a short list of such terms and their definitions. A correct understanding of the language used can make wills and court records all the more valuable.
|Administrator||One appointed by a court to settle an estate.|
|Assignation||Replacement of an executor or administrator by another person.|
|Bequeath||To give or hand down in a testament.|
|Bequest||A gift handed down in a testament.|
|Chattels||Movable personal property, livestock, slaves.|
|Curation||Guardianship of a child between 12 (girls) or 14 (boys) and 21.|
|Curator||A guardian of a child between 12 or 14 and 21.|
|Devise||Give real estate in a will.|
|Dower Rights||The right of the widow to a specified portion of the testator's estate during her lifetime or until her re-marriage.|
|Executor||One appointed to carry out the provisions of a will.|
|Executrix||A female executor, often the wife.|
|Goods||Movable inanimate personal property.|
|Holograph||Will hand-written by the testator.|
|Intestate||Having died without a will.|
|Inventory||An accounting of the real property and personalty left by the testator.|
|Letters of Administration|
|A court order providing for the execution of a will in the absence of an executor, or of a valid will.|
|Non-cupative||A will made orally, not in writing.|
|Personalty||The goods and chattels a person can bequeath in a testament.|
|Probate||Approval of the will by the court.|
|Probate Court||A court that has the power to grant probate.|
|Real Estate||Land or buildings a person can devise in a will.|
|Relict||A widow or widower surviving the spouse.|
|Testator||The person who makes a will and testament.|
|Testament||A legal document giving personalty (goods and chattels).|
|Testamentary Bond||A bond posted by the executor or administrator guaranteeing faithful execution.|
|Tutor||Someone appointed to be a guardian for a very young child (under 12 or 14).|
|Will||A legal document giving real estate.|
|Witness||Someone who saw the will and testament signed, and swears to that in probate court.|
Chapman, Colin R. Sin, Sex and Probate: Ecclesiastical Courts, Officials & Records. Dursley, England: Lochin Publishing, 1997.
Harris, Maurine and Glen. Concise Genealogical Dictionary. Ancestry, 1989.
Morris, William, Ed. The Americal Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc. and Houghton Mifflin Company, 1971.
This file was last updated on 7/14/2004.