Administrator: When the decedent has passed on without leaving a valid will and no executor has been named, Texas law requires that an administrator be named to carry out the duties of an executor. The court will often appoint one of the primary heirs to act in this capacity.

Beneficiaries: These are the loved ones named in a will.

Decedent: This is the legal term for the person who has died and whose estate is in the probate process.

Estate: In the state of Texas, an estate consists of all the decedent’s assets. These include, but aren’t limited to, cash, real estate holdings (homes, land, etc.), stocks and bonds, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, vehicles and personal belongings.

Executor: When a person dies with a valid will in place, the document typically names a person to serve as executor of the estate. The chief duties of the executor will be to inventory and catalogue the decedent’s assets; pay taxes and debts of the estate; file lawsuits for claims owed to the estate; and distribute assets from the estate to the beneficiaries as named in the decedent’s will.

Heirs or Heirs-at-Law: This is the legal term used for next-of-kin of the decedent when there is no will. The court determines who receives assets from the decedent’s estate according to Texas law.

Will: This is the legal document in which a decedent has outlined how he or she would like assets distributed among their loved ones.