Understanding What Some Legal Terms Mean

Beneficiary
A person entitled to received money or objects from a donor under a will, trust, insurance policy, or similar document.

Conservator
A person appointed by the court authorized to supervise a person’s financial affairs. Applies to minors and adults. Separate from a guardian.

Executor
A person responsible for carrying out a deceased person’s wishes in a Will.

Guardian
A person appointed by the court authorized to supervise a person’s personal & medical affairs, and property. Applies to minors and adults. Separate from a conservator.

Health Care Proxy
You select a person (an agent) to make health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This can be reversed when you become well again. Works in conjunction with a Living Will.

Living Will
Provides instructions to designated people the type of care you’d like to receive upon your incapacity. Works in conjunction with a Health Care Proxy.

MassHealth
This is the name of Medcaid in Massachusetts. It provides health insurance to those who have no other means to pay for their health care needs, including nursing home stays.

Power of Attorney
You select a person to act on your behalf in legal or business matters. A power of attorney does not require you to be incapacitated for someone to act on your behalf.

Pre-Need Guardianship Appointment
Provides documentation for caregivers of minors to doctors and hospitals should an emergency arise in the parent’s/guardian’s absence. This is document is good for a limited amount of time and provides peace of mind when a parent/guardian needs to be out of town for a period of time.

Probate
The administration of an estate of a deceased person. This goes through the Probate and Family Court in the area where the person died.

Trust
A contract between you and your trustees that designates how money property will be distributed among beneficiaries. There are two types of trusts: Revocable (can be changed by you at any time), and Irrevocable (cannot be changed once made).

Trustee
A person who holds and manages property in a trust on behalf of a beneficiary.

Unplanned beneficiary
A person entitled to property under a will or trust, even though you did not plan for that person to receive any of your property.

Will
This document describes how you would like your property distributed upon your death.