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Wills and Trusts: Home

Resource relating to wills, trusts, estates, and estate planning for law students, bar examinees, and other researchers.

Useful Definitions

AdministratorA person appointed by the court to manage the assets and liabilities of an intestate decedent.

BeneficiaryA person to whom another is in a fiduciary relation, whether the relation is one of agency, guardianship, or trust; especially, a person for whose benefit property is held in trust

Decedent: A dead person, especially one who has died recently.

Devise: The act of giving property by will. Although this term traditionally referred to gifts of real property—and in British usage the term is still confined to real property—in American usage the term has been considerably broadened.

Executor: A person named by a testator to carry out the provisions in the testator's will.

IntestateSomeone who has died without a valid will. 

Legacy: A gift by will, esp. of personal property and often of money.

ProbateThe judicial procedure by which a testamentary document is established to be a valid will; the proving of a will to the satisfaction of the court. 

Testator/testatrix: A person who has made a will; especially, a person who dies leaving a will.

Trust: The right, enforceable solely in equity, to the beneficial enjoyment of property to which another person holds the legal title; a property interest held by one person (the trustee) at the request of another (the settlor) for the benefit of a third party (the beneficiary).

Will: The legal expression of an individual's wishes about the disposition of his or her property after death; especially, a document by which a person directs his or her estate to be distributed upon death .

All definitions come from Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). 


Wills & Trusts explores the ways by which an individual’s property passes at death, how individuals may affect that passage by creating a will or will substitute like a trust during lifetime, what the law requires for a will or will substitute to be enforceable, the extent to which the law may limit the disinheritance of a surviving spouse or child, and how fiduciaries administer estates and trusts.

Wills & Trusts covers topics such as: intestacy, which provides for distribution of property by operation of law when a person fails to leave a valid will; probate estates; nonprobate transfers and will substitutes; the personal representative’s administration of a probate estate; the requirements for executing a valid will; will components; changes of circumstances after execution; revocation; interpretation; will contests; the creation of testamentary and living trusts; the trustee’s administration of a trust estate; the nature of beneficial interests under a trust instrument; rules of survivorship; future interests; the modification and termination of trusts; and powers of appointment.

[Summary from Wills and Trusts Course Description, UNM School of Law, (last visited 02/20/2018).]

Subscripiton Databases

Bloomberg Law: In the Search & Browse tab, choose All Legal Content. In the Select Sources box, type “estate,” “will,” or “trust” and select a source from the list that auto populates.

Bloomberg Law contains several treatises and practice manuals on estate and trust planning, such as Stocker & Rikoon on Drawing Wills and Trusts and Manning on Estate Planning.

Lexis Advance: Browse Topics—Estate, Gift & Trust

Westlaw: Under Browse—Topics—Estate Planning, various resources are listed including Regulations, Secondary Sources, Forms, and Proposed & Enacted Legislation.

Under Tools—West Key Number System, 154: Estates in Property, 390: Trusts, and 409: Wills may provide guidance in finding related materials.

Subject Guide

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