Here is a description of some of the words and phrases used in this website. Any definitions are based on everyday language and are not meant to be legal definitions.

ABLE Account

An account similar to a 529 college savings account but meant for persons with special needs. Families may want to consider such an account as an alternative to a Special Needs Trust. Kentucky’s legislature authorized them in 2016 but as of May 2016 they were not yet offered in Kentucky.

Advance Directive for Mental Health

A document describing your preferences for psychotropic medication, electroconvulsive therapy and emergency interventions if you undergo mental health treatment. Kentucky law provides a form and allows you to name a Surrogate to see that your instructions for mental health treatment are carried out.

Avoiding Probate

Taking steps while alive so your family can settle your estate without going to court. People may want to avoid probate to maintain privacy (probate is public) or to allow the estate to be settled quickly (probate takes at least 6 months). Common ways to avoid probate are by putting all your assets into a Living Trust or by filling out Beneficiary Designations.

Beneficiary Designation

A document you sign for a company in which you designate who is to receive your account when you die. A common example is life insurance but other examples include retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k)s. They are the easiest way to avoid probate but many people make mistakes on them and unintentionally ruin their estate plans.


A guardian over a ward’s finances but not his or her person. Meant for people who are able to take care of themselves but are not able to handle their own finances.

Disability Planning

The process of making plans in case you decide to move to a nursing home or get sick and can’t handle things yourself. Good estate planning includes disability planning.

Elder Law

Generally speaking, all those areas of the law applying to senior citizens. As used by most lawyers (and to distinguish it from Trusts & Estates) that area of the law dealing with Nursing Home Planning and Medicaid Planning.

Estate Administration

The management of an estate by the person appointed by the court to do so. If the decedent had a will, that person is referred to as the executor, otherwise as the administrator.

Estate Planning

The process of planning how your money and property should be handled when you die (and often while you are still alive). A good plan will include both life and death planning, for example by identifying who is to control your person and property if you become disabled. The plan usually results in several documents such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney.

Expanded Living Will

A document describing your preferences for personal care if you become unable to express those preferences yourself. This is a document we help you write as it is not provided by statute. It is meant to cover those situations such as dementia where the Living Will may not apply.

General Power of Attorney

A power of attorney that is not limited but gives your agent general powers to act on your behalf.


A person appointed by the court to care for the person and/or the finances of another person (known as the ward) often because the ward is a minor, or has a developmental disability, or has become incapacitated due to illness or dementia.

Health Care Surrogate Designation

A document appointing someone your agent to make health care decisions if you are unable to do so yourself. Legally, this document is a kind of Power of Attorney for Health Care. In Kentucky the statutory form is combined with the Living Will form.

Living Trust

A trust which you create and fund while you are still alive.

Living Will

A document authorizing the use or withholding of life-prolonging treatment or artificial nourishment if you lack decision-making capacity and are either permanently unconscious or terminally ill. Kentucky has a statutorily approved form, which incorporates a Health Care Surrogate Designation and also allows you to make donations of body parts.

Marital Trust

A trust created for the benefit of one’s spouse.


A joint program of the federal and state government providing medical benefits to qualified people. It is needs-based (not an entitlement) and there are strict rules for qualifying. For example, to qualify a person must have limited “countable resources.”

Medicaid Planning

A plan to spend or transfer your money or property in such a way as to qualify for Medicaid but still preserve or use some of your assets for your or your spouse’s benefit.

Nursing Home Planning

Taking steps to plan your estate in the way most advantageous to you and your family in case you move to a nursing home. This often includes Medicaid Planning but it doesn’t have to.

Power of Attorney for Health Care

A power of attorney limited to health care matters. This document is similar to a Health Care Surrogate Designation but may provide your agent with more authority.

Power of Attorney

A document you sign giving someone the power to act on your behalf as your agent (known as your attorney-in-fact).


The court-supervised process for collecting a decedent’s property, paying his debts and distributing his assets to the appropriate people. Rules require the executor of the estate to do certain things and make certain reports to the court. These rules exist to ensure that the estate is settled in a proper way.

QTIP Trust

A marital trust which qualifies for the unlimited marital exemption from the federal estate tax even though the rights of the surviving spouse for whose benefit the trust was created are limited in some way.

Recent Survey

For the article describing the survey see

Special Needs Trust

A common way many people refer to Supplemental Needs Trusts.

Supplemental Needs Trust

A trust for the benefit of a disabled person specifically written to preserve that person’s eligibility for government benefits. Money from the trust can be used only to supplement and not replace those benefits.

Testamentary Trust

A trust which you create in your will and thus which does not come into existence until after you die.


An arrangement where someone you trust (the trustee) holds, manages and spends money and property that you transfer to him, her or it. In some trusts you can be your own trustee. The trustee must act pursuant to the rules you set as contained in a written trust document.

Trust Administration

The process by a trustee of managing someone’s trust as required by the trust document itself and by the law of trusts.


A document you sign identifying whom should receive your money and property after you die. It does not affect assets that go outside probate such as those controlled by beneficiary designation.