Deciphering Legal Gobbledygook
Google “gobbledygook” and supposedly its first use was in 1944. Don’t ask me where, or how. But as a lawyer, I can tell you that legal gobbledygook has an ancient root in Latin. If you want to confuse someone, just start talking Latin, but don’t try it with the high school Latin teacher. So here are some regularly used terms with an explanation.
Administrator – The person appointed by a court to handle the estate of a person who dies without a will.
Executor – The person named in a will to handle the estate of a person who dies with a will.
Attorney-in-Fact – In Connecticut, this is what we call the person who is named as a power of attorney for someone. It is sometimes confusing, because people think it is an “attorney” but anyone over eighteen who is competent can be named as attorney-in-fact.
Codicil – This is an addition to a will which adds new terms or subtracts existing terms. In the age of the computer it is often easier to do the will over as it does not have to be retyped in full.
Conservator – A person appointed by a court to make financial or health decisions for an incompetent person.
Durable Power of Attorney – This is a power of attorney that still works even if the person making it becomes incompetent. That was not always the case, but now almost everyone does durable power of attorney. Remember, however, that a power of attorney ends when the person making it dies.
Fiduciary – This is anyone who has a duty to act on behalf of others. For example, an executor, or administrator, or trustee, or attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney are all fiduciaries.
Health Care Representative – Formerly called a health care agent, this is a person who is designated by you to make medical decisions for you if you are incapable of making those decisions yourself.
Intestate and Testate – A person who dies without a will is said to be intestate, and one with a will dies testate.
Life Use – This means someone has the use of some property for life. In the case of real estate, it also means they are responsible for taxes, insurance, repairs, etc.
Living Trust – A living trust is simply one that you make while living, as compared to a testamentary trust which is in your will and does not come into effect until you die. There are innumerable types of such trusts.
Living Will – This commonly refers to a health care directive telling your health care representative your wishes about life support if you are in a hopeless and terminal situation and cannot communicate your wishes.
POD Account – Means the account will be payable on death to a designated person.
Testator – The person who signs a will is called the testator. And in Latin a woman in that position is called a testatrix.
Et Ux – Old Latin abbreviation for “et uxa” meaning “and wife”, not seen by me in legal documents in over 35 years, when as a newlywed, my wife refused to sign a document that read “et ux”. I believe she ended that particular usage of Latin.
Zend – It’s not Latin. Just Z end of today’s article.