Legal Terms in Plain Language

AIPAlleged Incompetent Person. (A person is alleged to be incompetent until incompetency has been proven in court.)
Attorney in FactPerson named in a written document to act as an agent on behalf of the person who signs the document (as in a Power of Attorney). The attorney-in-fact’s power and responsibilities depend on the specific powers granted in the power of attorney document.
DocketA list or record kept by the court clerk of all filings and proceedings occurring in each case. Sometimes called “minutes” or “calendar”.
Durable Power of Attorney (DPoA)Power of Attorney with specific instruction indicating it shall continue to apply if the person becomes incompetent.
ExecutorPerson entrusted with responsibility for settling a deceased person’s estate by protecting the deceased person’s property until all debts and taxes have been paid and then transferring the residual estate (remaining assets) to the person(s) entitled to it.
FiduciaryAn individual in whom another has placed the utmost trust and confidence to manage and protect property or money. The relationship wherein one person has an obligation to act for another’s benefit; generally to conserve and protect assets.
The power or protective authority given by law, and imposed on an individual who is free and in the enjoyment of his rights, over one whose weakness on account of his age or vulnerability renders him/her unable to protect him/herself.
Guardian ad Litem
Attorney who investigates and reports findings and opinions to the judge at the beginning of a proceeding. Also called Court Evaluator or Visitor of the Court
Guardian/Conservator of the EstatePerson or entity (appointed by the court) with the legal right to control all facets of the Ward’s estate. Also called Guardian of the Property or Financial Guardian.
Guardian/Conservator of the Person Person or entity (appointed by the court) with the legal right and duty to make decisions regarding the Ward’s care, domicile, and medical treatment.
Healthcare Power of AttorneyPower of Attorney with specific language instructing that the grantee shall also have the right and obligation to make health care decisions for the grantor.
Incompetent (Some states use the words “incapacitated” or “disabled”)Being unable to care for ones self and/or ones finances.
Living TrustA property right, held by one party for the benefit of another that becomes effective during the lifetime of the creator and is, therefore, in existence upon his or her death.

A living trust, also known as inter vivos, is different from a testamentary trust, which is created by will and does not take effect until the death of the settlor.

Living WillA legal document stating ones medical wishes should one become unable to state them for him/herself. Living wills deal with the desire for or against extraordinary measures to keep a person alive.
Mediation A procedure for settling disputes out of court.
ProbateLegal process that takes place after someone dies,. It involves proving the validity of the decedent’s will, identifying, inventorying, and having appraised the decedent’s property, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining property as directed by the decedent’s will.
Pro-seActing (and litigating) as ones own attorney; literally, “for self.”
TrustArrangement where one person (called a trustee) holds legal title to property for another person (called a beneficiary). A person can be trustee of his/her own living trust and keep full control over all property in the trust.
WardPerson determined in a legal proceeding to be unable to care for himself/herself and/or his/her property. “Ward of the State.” Some states use the term “incapacitated person.” Others use “disabled,” or “protected person.” The latest most palatable term is “person in guardianship.” They all mean “ward.”

Need a quick course on guardianship abuse?

Watch this segment of Last Week Tonight (2018) with John Oliver:
*warning, strong language