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Will and Probate Glossary for Genealogy Research

By Sharon DeBartolo Carmack Premium

As you research wills and probate documents, it’s helpful to know the meaning of the terms you’ll encounter. Print this list and take it with you the next time you head to the courthouse to find your ancestors.

  • abstract: a summary of the important aspects of a document
  • administrator/administratrix: person or persons appointed by the court to administer an intestate estate (administrator, male; administratrix, female)
  • codicil: an amendment to a will
  • dower: a provision in the law for the widow for her support and the care of her children. Upon the death of her husband, the widow received one-third in value of all lands that her husband owned at the time of his death.
  • estate: the sum total of a person’s property
  • executor/executrix: person or persons named in a will to carry out the terms in the will (executor, male; executrix, female)
  • intestate: a case where a person dies leaving no valid will
  • inventory: an itemized list of a person’s property
  • probate: the legal process of transferring items of a deceased person’s estate to heirs
  • testate: a case where a person dies leaving a valid will
  • transcription: a verbatim copy of a record
  • will: a legal document providing for the disposition of a person’s property

A version of this article appeared in the October 2001 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

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