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Estate Planning Terms You Should Know

David W. Walker Attorney At Law May 23, 2022

Woman Holding Hands Near Figures of House and FamilyYou may already know that you want to provide for your family or close loved ones after you pass away. However, you might be uncertain about how to make your wishes legally enforceable. Through the estate planning process, you can be confident that your wishes will be respected.

I want to help make the estate planning process as understandable as possible for all my clients. With over thirty years of legal experience, I can help you prepare your estate for the future, no matter what it may bring. I am proud to represent clients in Columbia, Missouri, as well as Jefferson City, Fulton, Boonville, and the nearby areas.

Why Estate Planning Is Important

Estate planning is important because it allows you to provide for your family after you have passed away. Without the correct legal documentation, any wishes you have for the distribution of your assets and property may not be honored. However, if you establish a legally-binding will or trust, you can be certain that your wishes will be carried out in a time-sensitive and dignified manner after you pass away.

Important Terms To Know

As you are considering how you will plan your estate, it’s important to know the following terms.


Decedent is the legal term for the individual who passed away.


The estate is the total of the decedent’s property after his or her debts have been paid. All the decedent’s assets are included in the estate.


Probate is the process during which the judge appoints (according to the terms of the will or the trust, if there is one) the executor of the estate who is also known as the personal representative. During the probate process, the executor distributes the decedent’s assets to the beneficiaries.


When a person passes away without leaving a valid will or trust, then they are considered to have died intestate.


A will is a legally-binding document that states how the decedent’s property will be distributed after his or her death.


In a trust, an individual appoints another person (the trustee) and gives them the authority to manage his or her assets after death or incapacitation.


A beneficiary is a person who receives benefits from the decedent’s estate or trust.


The executor is the person who was chosen by the decedent to administer his or her estate. They are responsible for carrying out the terms of the will.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document where you (the principal) appoint an individual to be your agent, which means that they can either help you manage or make decisions on your behalf regarding your property, legal matters, taxes, and financial affairs if you become either unavailable or unable to act.

Advance Healthcare Directive

An advance healthcare directive is a legally-binding document that states what choices you would like made on your behalf in a medical situation where you are unable to express your decisions yourself.


Guardianship involves a guardian who has been appointed to make decisions for a minor or incapacitated individual who is known as the ward. These can be personal decisions, and the guardian will also be able to manage the property of the ward.


Similar to guardianship, in a conservatorship, the appointed conservator both cares for and manages the property of an incapacitated person.

Experienced Guidance You Can Trust

Whether you are just beginning to think about your estate plan or you are already certain of your wishes, an experienced estate planning attorney can help. I am passionate about helping my clients make the best estate plans for their families. My firm, Ford, Parshall & Baker, is proud to represent clients in Columbia, Missouri, as well as Jefferson City, Fulton, Boonville, and the nearby areas. Contact my firm today to schedule a free appointment.