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So often, attorneys use words and phrases that to us we know exactly what the meaning is; yet we sometimes forget to explain to the client the exact meaning. Here is a glossary of some of the words used in estate planning.

Will – a written document specifying a person’s wishes concerning his or her property distribution upon his or her death.

In order to be enforced by a court of law, a will must be signed in accordance with the provisions set forth in the Louisiana Civil Code.

Testator/Testatrix – the person who signs the will. Testator is male. Testatrix is female.

Decedent – The person who died.

Testate – refers to a person dies with a will. The estate will pass down in accordance with the wishes of the decedent as spelled out in the will.

Intestate – refers to a person who dies without a will. The estate will pass down in accordance with the rules as laid out under Louisiana Law.

Heirs/Legatees– beneficiaries of an estate. Normally heirs refers to individuals who inherit an estate when the decedent dies without a will. Legatees are person who inherit because they are named in a will by the decedent.

Executor/Executrix – the individual given authority by the testator in the will to make decisions to put the testator’s written directions into effect. (Testate)

Once the will is entered into probate, the executor’s signature is equivalent to the testator’s. The executor has a legal duty to the heirs of the estate to act in the best interest of the estate, and may collect a fee for performing such service. The fee is set by law – 2 1/2 percent of the gross estate.

Administrator/Administratrix – the person who assumes the role of the executor when a person dies without a will (intestate).

The Administrator must apply with the local probate office and may be required to provide a bond to be held in escrow as collateral for control over the assets of the estate.

Codicil – an amendment to a will.

In order to be valid, a codicil must comply with all the requirements of Louisiana Law.

Olographic Will– a handwritten will. These wills are still recognized in Louisiana. They must be written, dated and signed by the testator at the end in his own handwriting. They do not need to be witnessed  Just an FYI – in every other State of the Union this wills are called Holographic wills. Somehow, Louisiana lost the “H”

Notarial Will – a typed will, usually drafted by an attorney, which is dated and signed before two witnesses and a Notary Public, adhering to other strict requirements of Louisiana Law. A very formal document.

Bequest – a gift given by the testator to his or her heirs through a will.

Residual Estate – the balance of a testator’s belongings after debts have been paid and specific bequests have been distributed. 

Usufruct – a bequest that gives an heir the right to have exclusive use of a property for the remainder of his or her life, but without the power to transfer such property upon the death of that heir. In other words, the usufructary does not have full ownership – Just the use and enjoyment. Another person or persons, known as the naked owners, have the other part of ownership. The naked owner does not have the right to use the property.

The property will transfer to the naked owner upon the ending of the usufructary – thus making the naked owner the full owner of the pro