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Definitions for Estate Planning terms.

Some of these terms have different meanings in various legal contexts. However, these definitions provide insight into their use in Estate Planning under Missouri law.

Advance Health Care Directive

A legal document stating your wishes regarding health care treatment and end-of-life decisions. Effective upon your mental incapacity.


This individual is authorized to make decisions on your behalf. You select your Attorney-in-Fact in your General or Health Care Power of Attorney document. A general Attorney-in-Fact is authorized to act in various legal and financial situations. A Health Care Attorney-in-Fact is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.


The individual appointed to receive a specific benefit or asset, as named in a legal document, such as a Will or Trust. ​


An amendment or addition to a Will after the Will is signed.


The deceased. Typically, referring to a Settlor or Testator after their death.

Intestate Succession

If you die without a Will, your estate is in a condition of “intestacy.” Under these circumstances, every state has specific laws addressing the distribution of your property (Intestate Succession Laws). In short, the state determines which of your relatives receive what portion of your assets. The drawbacks to intestate succession include not controlling who inherits your property.

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship

A form of property ownership in which two or more parties share ownership during their lifetime. Upon death, the deceased owner’s property interest passes to the surviving owner(s) without being subject to Probate.

Personal Representative

This person is responsible for wrapping up your legal affairs after your death. Their primary responsibility is to initiate Probate Administration (if needed). Your choice of Personal Representative is a role you nominate in your Will.

Payable on Death Designee (POD)

A person directly named on a specific bank account, investment account, or other asset as its Beneficiary. The individual named in the designation would become the owner of the account or asset upon your death. Essentially, synonymous with a TOD (Transfer-on-Death Designee).

Power of Attorney (see below)

Durable Power of Attorney – A legal instrument in which the Principal grants particularized authority to an agent, their Attorney-in-Fact, to act on their behalf. This authority remains effective through the Principal’s mental incapacity.


The individual assigning specific decision-making authority to another (their Attorney-in-Fact) in a Power of Attorney document.


A court-ordered process that itemizes the Decedent’s property and assets, orders payment of any debts or taxes, and distributes remaining property and assets as directed by the Decedent’s Will or, in the absence of a valid Will, by Missouri Intestate Succession laws. There are typically various fees associated with Probate administration.

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