Key Terms

Last Will and Testaments


Executor/Executrix; Testator/Testatrix

An Executor is the person who carries out the wishes contained in a Last Will and Testament.  An Executrix is the term for a female Executor.  While the term Executor is now generally used to refer to both sexes, older wills used the term Executrix to differentiate between the genders.


A Testator is the person who wrote the Will and whose Last Testament is carried out in the administration of his or her estate in accordance with the desires contained in the Will.  Like the term Executrix, the term Testatrix was used to differentiate between the genders.


A Codicil is an amendment to a Last Will.  Instead of revoking an existing Will, a Codicil amends or modifies parts of a Will. Codicils were more popular when Wills had to be handwritten or individually typed.  With current technology, it is just as easy and effective to enact a new Will as it is to modify an existing one with a Codicil.


Assets can be disposed of in a couple of different ways in your Last Will and Testament.  One way is to fund a trust that you create in your Will, or you can make specific bequests of specific items to specific people.  Any assets not disposed of by those two options and remaining in your estate become part of the "residue" of your estate.  The residue is usually then left to a person, persons, or class of persons or heirs.

Living Wills


Healthcare Agent

A Healthcare Agent is someone you designate to communicate your wishes and desires concerning medical treatment and care to your treating physicians if you are unable to communicate them yourself.  This is also the person charged with relaying your instructions regarding the termination of life support to your treating physicians.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a document that authorizes someone to act on your behalf as if they were you.  This allows someone to sign documents on your behalf and to conduct your affairs if you are not able to.  It is important to note that this document is valid from the time it is signed and is not conditioned on your incapacity, so you should be careful to select someone you fully trust.


A Power of Attorney can be for any purpose, or for a specific purpose.  It can also be time limited and become null and void after a set date.


A Power of Attorney can be revoked by destroying the document and all copies.  You should also advise anyone who has previously relied on a Power of Attorney in writing that you have revoked it.


A Conservator is very similar to a Power of Attorney.  However, a Conservator must be approved and appointed by a Probate Court.  A Conservator is also overseen by the Probate Court and must file periodic reports and accountings with the Court.


A Conservator is generally appointed if it is expected that you will have a long period of incapacity, whereas a Power of Attorney is generally utilized for short-term episodes of incapacity.

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