Glossary of Terms

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Ambulatory: Ability to walk

Ambulatory with assistance: Ability to walk with assistance such as a cane, walker or wheelchair

Assisted Living: Bridges the gap between independent living and nursing homes. A type of living arrangement in which personal care services such as meals, housekeeping, transportation, and assistance with activities of daily living are available as needed to people who still live on their own in a residential facility. In most cases, the “assisted living” residents pay a regular monthly rent. Then, they typically pay additional fees for the services they get.  Residents in assisted living centers are not able to live by themselves but do not require constant care either.

Assets: Anything you own including your home, other real estate, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, clothing, collectables, jewelry, furniture and art.

Assisted Living Facility (ALF): A facility in which an individual lives in that that provides supervision or assistance with activities of daily living, coordination of services by outside health providers, and providing activities, in an effort to ensure the health, safety and well-being of residents. ALFs vary in size from a three resident house to large facilities that house hundreds of residents.

Attorney-in-fact: The person authorized to represent the principal under a power of attorney.

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Beneficiaries: A broad definition for any person or entity (like a charity) who is to receive assets or profits from an estate, a trust, an insurance policy or any instrument in which there is distribution.

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Caregiver: A person who helps care for someone who is ill, disabled, or aged. Some caregivers are relatives or friends who volunteer their help. Some people provide caregiving services for a cost.

Case Manager: A nurse, doctor, or social worker who arranges all services that are needed to give proper health care to a patient or group of patients.

Codicil: A written change or amendment to a will.

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Durable Power of Attorney: A legal document that gives another person, who is named in the document, full or limited legal authority to act in your place in accordance with the powers specified with the document. It is valid during and through incapacity and ends at death.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: A legal document that lets you give someone else the authority to make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them for yourself. It is also referred to as a Health Care Surrogate.

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Estate: All property that an individual owns at his or her death. It does not include property which passes to another individual or entity automatically upon the individual’s death such as jointly owned property or the life insurance policy payment. It does include the debts left by the individual.

Estate Planning: A process by which a person, with the assistance of an attorney, designs a strategy and has documents prepared to conserve, protect, and distribute estate assets before and after death for the benefit of loved ones, taking into consideration the effect of state and federal tax, administrative laws and regulations.

Executor: Individual or institution named in a Will to carry out the terms of the Will. Female is executrix. Also called a personal representative.

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Fiduciary: Person having a legal duty to act for the benefit or another person. This implies great confidence and trust, and a high degree of good faith. It is usually associated with a Trustee or Guardian.

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Grantor: The person who sets up or creates the trust. The person is also referred to as settlor or trustmaker.

Guardian: A person or entity appointed by a Court, and under Court supervision, to act on behalf of an incapacitated person. They are responsible for the care and well-being of the incapacitated person. A guardian may also be referred to as a conservator.

Guardian Ad Litem: A guardian appointed by a Court in connection with specific matter.

Guardianship: A court supervised proceeding where a guardian is appointed for person who is unable to manage their own affairs due to mental or physical incapacity. A guardianship may be needed for a minor child if the child receives assets such as an inheritance or a lawsuit settlement exceeding $15,000.00.

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Health Care Surrogate: A document that gives a specified individual the right to make your medical care decisions when you are unable to or incapacitated.  It is also referred to as a Health Care Power of Attorney or a Health Care Proxy.

HIPAA: HIPAA (HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 1996): This law was created to protect people’s privacy in regard to medical treatment. Information and records cannot be released to someone other than yourself except when there is written permission. Not even your spouse. A HIPAA Release authorizes all health care providers who may treat you to release information to who you have designated in the release.

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Incapacitated/ Incompetent: When an individual is unable to manage one’s own affairs, either temporarily or permanently. The individual lacks the legal power.

Intestate: A person who dies without a Will or a Trust.

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Joint ownership: A form of ownership in which two or more people own the same property/ asset together.

Joint tenancy: A form of concurrent ownership under which each owner owns an undivided interest in the whole property, and when one owner dies, the surviving joint owners succeed to his or her interest.

Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship: A form of joint ownership in which the deceased owner’s share automatically and immediately transfers to the surviving joint tenant(s).

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Last Will and Testament: A will is the best known instrument in estate planning. It is a written document with instructions for disposing of assets after death. A will can only be enforced through the probate court.

Living Will: A written document that is not actually a will, but a set of instructions. It is a legal document whereby you indicate what your wishes and desires are regarding the use or nonuse, or the withdrawal, of medical treatment or extraordinary procedures that would artificially prolong life should you become terminally ill and incapacitated.

Long-Term Care Insurance: Is an insurance policy that can pay the cost of a home healthcare aide, assisted living, or skilled nursing care for a person with an acute or long-term illness or disability. Medicare, Medicare supplemental coverage and health insurance provided by employers, do not pay for most long-term care expenses.

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Medicaid: A federally-funded health care program for the poor and minor children.

Medicare: A federally-funded health care program primarily for American over the age of 65 who are covered by Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits.

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Ombudsman: The ombudsman is responsible for advocating on behalf of residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care facilities.

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Personal Property: Moveable property including cash and stocks.

Personal Representative: Another name for an executor or administrator.

Pooled Trust: A trust that is managed by a not-for-profit association and the assets in the trust are pooled for investment purposes but separate accounts are maintained for each individual investor.

Probate: The legal process through a Court where by the Will is validated, debts paid and remaining assets are distributed according to the instructions specified in the Will.

Probate Estate: The assets that you own that go through probate after you die. Usually this includes assets you own in your name and those paid to your estate. Usually does not include assets owned jointly, payable-on-death accounts, insurance and other assets with beneficiary designations. Assets in a trust also do not go through probate.

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Real Property: Real Estate, land and buildings attached thereto.

Required Minimum Distribution (RMD): The amount you are required to withdraw each year from your tax-deferred plan after you reach your Required Beginning Date. This amount is determined by dividing the year-end value of your tax-deferred account by a life expectancy divisor found on a chart provided by the IRS.

Revocable Trust: A Trust in which the person establishing the Trust retains the right to change the terms of the trust during his/her lifetime. A trust in which the person setting it up retains the power to change (revoke) or cancel the trust during his/her lifetime. This is opposite of an irrevocable trust.

Right of survivorship: A right as to property owned as joint tenants or as tenants by the entirety, whereby one joint owner succeeds to the interest of a deceased joint owner. 

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Settlor: The person who sets up or creates the trust. The person is also referred to as grantor or trustmaker

Special Needs Trust: A Trust established for the benefit of a disabled person. The purpose of this trust is to provide supplemental support for the disabled person without disqualify the disabled person from receiving governmental benefits. The trust must comply with specified requirements so that distributions from the Trust would not result in the loss of such governmental benefits.

Successor Trustee: Person or institution named in the trust document who will take over should the first trustee die, resign, or otherwise become unable to act

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Tenancy in common: A form of joint ownership in which two or more persons own the same property. At the death of a tenant-in-common, his/her share transfers to his/her heirs.

Tenancy by the entirety: A form of joint ownership in some states between husband and wife. It can be terminated only by the consent of both spouses or the termination of the marital relationship. When one spouse dies, his/her share of the asset automatically transfers to the surviving spouse.

Testate: The individual who has died with a valid will.

Testamentary Trust: A Trust that is established under a Will that will only take effect upon the death of the Testator (the individual whose Will is it). This does not avoid probate.

Testator: The individual who makes the Will. Female is Testatrix

Trust: A legal relationship created by one person, called the Grantor in which another person, called the Trustee, manages property donated to the Trust by the Grantor for the benefit of a third person, called the Beneficiary. An entity that holds assets for the benefit of certain other persons or entities.

Trustee: The person or entity who manages the Trust according to the instructions in the trust document.

Trustmaker: The person who sets up or creates the trust. The person is also referred to as settlor, or grantor.

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South Florida Elder Law Attorney Gail M. Fisher

Our Offices are located in Plantation, Florida. We serve the South Florida Cities of


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