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15 [More] Common Legal Terms Everyone Should Know


Most broadly, the term taxes embraces all governmental impositions on the person, property, privileges, occupations, and enjoyment of the people, and includes duties, imposts, and excises.


An executor is simply one who performs or carries out some act; usually someone who is named by the testator to carry out the provisions in the testator’s will.

Bonus: An executrix is simply a female executor (AKA executress)


An issue is a person’s children or other lineal descendants such as grandchildren. This doesn't include all heirs, only the direct bloodline. Often times, a point of contention arises as to whether a will or deed meant issue to include descendants beyond their immediate children.

An issue is also a point in dispute between two or more parties.

Medi-Cal & Medicaid

Medicaid is a cooperative federal-state program that pays for medical expenses for qualifying individuals who cannot afford private medical services and is authorized under the Social Security Act. Medi-Cal is simply California’s version of the federal Medicaid program and runs under different rules than the more widely adopted Medicaid program.


A notary public is a person authorized by a state to administer oaths, certify documents, attest to the authenticity of signatures, and perform official acts in commercial matters, such as protesting negotiable instruments and is often shortened to simply notary.

No Contest Clause

A no-contest clause is a provision designed to threaten one into action or inaction, especially a testamentary provision that threatens to dispossess any beneficiary who challenges the terms of a trust or will.

Per Stripes

Per stripes is a form of distribution where the assets are distributed proportionately divided between beneficiaries according to their deceased ancestor’s share. In latin, per stripes literally means “by roots or stocks”. Also known as Right of Representation.

Right of Representation

Right of Representation is a form of asset distribution wherein any property that would have otherwise passed to a deceased heir or beneficiary, is distributed instead to their then living issue(s) equally if they are in the same generation. Also known as Per Stripes.

Per Capita with Representation

Per capita with representation is a form of distribution where property is divided equally among all members of a class of taker, including those who have predeceased the testator, so that no family stocks are cut off by the prior death of a taker. For example; If T (testator) has three children - A, B, and C - and C has two children but predeceases T, C’s children will still take C’s share when T’s estate is distributed.

Pro Per & Pro Se

Pro Per refers to someone who represents themselves in a proceeding without the aid of a lawyer. In latin, pro per means “for one’s self”. In some states, Pro Se is substituted for Pro Per, however, their meaning is the same.

Pro Rata

Pro Rata means proportionately; according to an exact rate, measure or interest.

Small Estate

Small estates are those estates that are smaller than an amount set by state law that may qualify it for a simplified proceeding; small estate affidavits. In California, estates less than $150,000 do not need to be probated.

Small Estate Affidavit

A small estate affidavit is another legal form that an heir can use in order to collect property from a deceased individual. Small estate affidavits are often times a less expensive method of estate collection as opposed to probate.

Special Needs Trust

A Special Needs Trust (SNT), also called a Supplemental-needs Trust, is a trust established to provide supplemental income for a disabled beneficiary who is receiving or may be eligible to receive government benefits. Special Needs Trusts are irrevocable and often used by parents of disabled children to ensure the beneficiary’s eligibility for government benefits by expressly prohibiting distributions that may be used for the beneficiary's food, shelter, or clothing.


Springing refers to a document that becomes effective only when needed, at some future date, or upon some future occurrence, usually upon a principal’s incapacity. Financial Powers of Attorney are sometimes drafted to be Springing Powers of Attorney.

Estate Tax

Estate Taxes are taxes imposed on the transfer of property by will or by intestate succession. People often refer to estate taxes as death taxes.

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