Probate Glossary

A Comprehensive Guide for Personal Representatives

When a loved one passes away, the probate process becomes a crucial step in the distribution of their estate to beneficiaries listed in their will. Being appointed as a personal representative is an honorable responsibility, but it can also be overwhelming if you’re unfamiliar with the probate terminology and procedures.


At The Probate Law Group, our Houston probate attorneys understand your concerns, and we’ve compiled a list of commonly used probate terms to provide you with essential knowledge. While understanding these terms is a good starting point, our probate lawyers are ready to assist you further if you have any additional questions or uncertainties.

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    The personal representative is an individual designated to oversee the administration of the deceased’s estate. Often, this role is specified in the deceased’s will. However, if no will exists, or the named representative is unwilling or unable to serve, the court will appoint one. While Texas uses the term “personal representative,” other states may refer to this position as an “administrator” or “executor.”

    “Decedent” is another term used to refer to the deceased. In probate matters, both “deceased” and “decedent” are frequently used interchangeably.

    The term “estate” refers to all the property and assets of the decedent. However, not all property is part of the probate estate. Some assets are exempt from probate requirements, while others, like joint-owned property or assets with designated beneficiaries, are not considered probate assets.

    Assets include anything of value, such as cash, bank accounts, real estate, collections, vehicles, furniture, jewelry, investments, and cryptocurrency.

     Liabilities encompass any debts the decedent owed at the time of their passing. All outstanding liabilities must be settled from the probate estate before distributing any inheritances.

    Ademption occurs when a beneficiary or heir is bequeathed something in the will that the decedent no longer owns at the time of their death. For example, if the deceased wills their vintage car to their grandchild, but they sold it before passing away, the gift is considered adeemed.

    Abatement refers to reducing specific gifts mentioned in the will to cover the estate’s debts or expenses. For instance, if the estate’s value is $500,000 after settling debts, but the will mentions giving $100,000 to each of the seven grandchildren, the inheritances may need to be reduced, or abated.

    A legal term used to describe the intention to transfer one’s property, typically after death.

    A will contest arises when someone challenges the validity of the deceased’s will, often based on undue influence, lack of capacity, revocation, duress, or coercion.

    ¬†Under Texas probate law, the court may set aside a specific amount of money for the deceased’s spouse, minor children, and incapacitated adult children to cover living expenses for one year.

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    If you’ve been appointed as a personal representative, this probate glossary provides you with a foundational understanding of key terms. However, navigating the probate process can still be complex. To receive personalized guidance and support, reach out to the knowledgeable Houston probate lawyers at The Probate Law Group. With over 40 years of experience assisting clients through probate, we are here to address your questions and discuss how we can help. To learn more or schedule a consultation, please call us at (713) 574-6080 or connect with us through our secure online contact form.