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August 8, 2010

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Genealogy Jeopardy


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Legal Terms


Raymond L. Niblock, PA
Attorney at Law
324 N. College Ave.
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72702

March 13, 2005
Fayetteville, Arkansas

  • Court of Ordinary: Courts that were considered to have exclusive and general jurisdiction over the probate of wills, decedents’ estates, and the estates of incompetents (minors, lunatics, insane persons). In Arkansas we had Probate Courts which have since been replaced as Circuit Courts. We have no exclusive courts over probate in Arkansas.
  • Ad Litem: Literally means “for the suit.” It is a person appointed by the court to prosecute or defend a suit on behalf of a party who is incapacitated by age, infirmity, or otherwise.
  • Guardianships of Minors: Guardianships, also called Conservatorships, may be of the person and the estate. Guardians are appointed by the Court when one is necessary. For example, a child’s parents both die in an accident. Someone would have to be appointed to make decisions on behalf of the child until the child reaches 18 years old (majority). A guardianship of the estate is that which governs the child’s money and possessions and can act on his behalf in that way. A guardianship over the person means exactly that – that decisions involving the person of the child, such as health care, schools, where to live, etc. Guardianships are often, but not always, held by one person exercising both roles.
  • Seisin. This terms dates back to ancient times and has its roots in old English Feudalism. This term means possession of real property under claim of “freehold estate.” The completion of the feudal investiture, by which the tenant was admitted into the feud, and performed the rights of homage and fealty. Possession with an intent on the part of him who holds it to claim a freehold interest. Right to immediate possession according to the nature of the estate. In short, it is your land.
  • Dower: A provision which the law makes for a widow out of the lands and chattle of her husband. It entitles a woman, by law, to lay a claim upon the death of her husband against the lands which he was “seised in fee” during their marriage. This “dower” interest is “inchoate” and entitles her to a life estate to 1/3rd of the value of all of his lands of which the husband had been siesed during “coverture.” Likewise, inchoate dower is a wife’s interest in the lands of her husband during his life, which may become a right of dower upon his death.
  • The Administrator of an Estate. The administrator of an estate is responsible for making an accurate inventory of the decedent’s belongings and property and assigning an accurate market value of those things as of the date of death. After that the Administrator is responsible to wind up the decedent’s affairs by notifying statutory beneficiaries (or devisees as in the case of a Will) and creditors of the existence of the estate. The Administrator acts as a fiduciary and must account for any money that comes into, or flows out of, his hands. Once everything is accounted for and all debts are paid, the Administrator must make distribution of the remainder, according to law, to the heirs. Note, an Administrator is a male over an estate created when there was no will. An Administratrix is the feminine form of that word. In the case of there being a will, an Executor would have similar duties as an Administrator. The feminine form of Executor is Executrix. Persons in this role are held accountable by the court and must publish accountings and obtain court approvals to open the estate, dispose of assets, and close the estate.
  • In Fee Simple. This is a term of property law that has its roots in old English Common law but is still in use today. It means that the person owns the specific real estate completely.
  • Age of Reason. The age of reason historically has been 7 years of age. This dates back to ancient times.
  • Age of Consent. The age at which someone can marry without parental consent. In Arkansas it is 17 for males and 16 for females.
  • Minority / Majority. The age of majority in most states, including Arkansas, is 18 years old.
  • Life Interest. A person may be deeded a parcel of real estate for his life, or the life of another. In any event, once the life of that person expires, then the land reverts back to the person who gave the grant, or to others, as the case may be.
  • Metes and Bounds. The exact description of the boundary of a parcel of real estate that you would see in a deed. Now it is measured using Imperial Measurements – feet and inches. In the past it used to be measured using terms such as links, rods and chains. These measurements, known as a “surveyor’s measure” may be converted into inches and feet, etc.
  • Warranty Deed. A deed where the grantor of that deed warrants good, clear title. The usual covenants of title made are warranties of seisin (the person actually owns the parcel), quiet enjoyment (there are no claims to interfere with the new ownership), the right to convey (the land may be sold to others without strings attached), freedom from encumbrances (there are no existing claims to cloud title) and defense of title as to all claims (if someone comes and claims an interest, the grantor will defend).
  • Quit Claim Deed. A deed that releases one’s interest in a particular parcel – it passes titles, but the grantor does not profess any warranty, nor makes any covenants as to title.
  • Chattle. Personal property. Anything that is not real estate. A thing that is personal and movable.
  • Ex Parte. By or for one party only. In other words, not in the presence of the other party. Ex Parte hearings, for example, can happen when the court only hears one side of the controversy.
  • Decree of Partition. Where more than one person owns an undivided interest in land, one of those persons may partition the court to partition the land. A decree of partition, therefore, would be a court order dividing the land physically, or ordering it sold and dividing the proceeds from the sale among the co-tenants in the land.

Note: The foregoing does not constitute legal advice nor should it be considered a statement of the law upon which one should rely. If you need or want legal advice about any issue raised by the foregoing, please seek out and consult a duly licensed attorney of the affected jurisdiction.

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