Glossary: Tioga County Surrogate's Court


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acknowledgment: Legal statement that is signed before a person authorized to take such acknowledgment as a Notary Public, Commissioner of Deeds, Attorney, or Clerk of the Court. This acknowledgment verifies the identify of the person signing the statement.

acknowledgment of paternity: A written instrument authorized by the Social Services Law and Public Health Law whereby a person admits he is the biological father of a particular child. When properly executed and filed, the acknowledgment has the force and effect of an order of filiation.

administration: Proceeding of an estate of a person who dies without leaving a will (intestate).

administrator: A person appointed by the Court to act as fiduciary to settle the estate of a person who died without a will.

administrator c.t.a.: (administrator with the will attached - cum testamento annexo) Person appointed to be an administrator where an executor fails to qualify or is unable or ceases to act by reason of death, disqualification, or renunciation or where no executor was named in the will.

administrator d.b.n.: (of goods not already administered - de bonis non) Any person to whom letters of administration have been issued as a successor to an administrator who has died or who has failed to complete the estate.

adoption: A legal proceeding under Article 6 of the Family Court Act and Article 7 of the Domestic Relations Act whereby a person takes another person into the relation of a child and thereby acquires the rights and incurs the responsibilities of a parent in respect to such other person.

affiant: A person who makes an affidavit.

affidavit: A statement of facts which is made voluntarily and confirmed by the oath or affirmation of the person making it.

affidavit of service: An affidavit intended to certify the service of a writ, notice, or other document.

affirm: An act of declaring something to be true under the penalty of perjury by a person who conscientiously declines to take an oath for religious or other pertinent reasons.

a/k/a: An abbreviation for "also known as".

alias: Any name for used for an official purpose that is different from a person's legal name.

ancillary proceeding: Proceeding based upon an original probate or administration of an estate from a foreign country or another state leading to the ancillary probate of a will and/or appointment of a fiduciary in order to administer real or personal property within the State of New York.

answer: A paper submitted by a party in which he/she responds to and/or denies the allegations of the other party.

appearance: The participation in the proceedings by a party summoned in an action, either in person or through an attorney.

assignee: A person to whom an assignment is made.

attestation: The act of witnessing an instrument in writing (Will) at the request of the person making the same, and subscribing it as a witness.

attestation clause: Paragraph appearing at the end of a Will after the signature of the person making the Will for the purpose of the attesting witnesses describing the signing or execution of the will.

attesting witness: Persons witnessing the actual signing of a (subscribing witness) Will at the request of the person making the Will or before whom the person making the Will shows his signature on the Will. At least two witnesses are required and they must sign below that of the person making the Will.

attorney: A person educated in the law, admitted to practice before the bar of a given jurisdiction an authorized to advise, represent, and act for other persons in legal proceedings.

attorney in fact: A person authorized by another to act in his/her place, either for some particular purpose or for the transaction of business in general. This authority is conferred by a written document called a "power of attorney". A "power of attorney" is no longer valid after the death of the person who conferred the power.

attorney of record: Attorney whose name appears in the permanent records or files of a case.

authenticated copy: A reproduction of an original writing that has been certified or verified by a proper officer.

authentication: See "exemplification."

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beneficiary: Any person entitled to share in an estate.

bequest or legacy: A gift by will of money or other personal property.

bond: An individual guarantee of performance. The insurance company is the surety which guarantees that the fiduciary will perform or the insurance company will be liable.

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calendar: A schedule of matters to be heard in court.

calendar call: The calling of matters requiring parties, or their attorneys, to appear and be heard.

caption: In a pleading, deposition or other paper connected with a case in court, it is the heading or introductory clause which shows the names of the parties, name of the court, file number, etc.

case file: The court file containing the papers submitted in a case.

cause of action: The ground on which an action may be sustained.

certificate: An instrument with the court's seal showing that authority has been granted to a fiduciary to act in that capacity and that the authority is in full force and effect on the date of the certificate.

certification: Certificate signed by the Chief Clerk, or Deputy Clerk, with the court's seal attached to a specific instrument indicating it to be a true copy of the original on file with the court.

certify: To testify in writing.

citation: 1) Surrogate's Court term for the process issued by the court to be served upon all interested parties to a proceeding (who have not waived or otherwise appeared) in order to secure jurisdiction over them in the proceeding and to give notice of the purpose of the proceeding. 2) Reference to authorities in support of any argument.

clerk's minutes: Notes, which are taken by a clerk, of events that occurred in court.

codicil to a will: An addition attached to, or accompanying an original Will changing content of an original Will. A codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same manner as the Will.

compromise account: An administrative accounting that results from the settlement of a cause of action (i.e. wrongful death). Generally, fewer schedules are filed than in a voluntary account.

concurrent jurisdiction: Where two or more courts can hear the same case.

conformed copy: An exact copy of a document with written explanations of things that could not be copied; e.g., a written signature might be replaced with a notation that it was signed by the person on the original.

contested action: An action which involves disputed issue(s) of fact or law.

court decision: Any official determination made by a Judge.

court order: A mandate, command or direction issued by a Judge in the exercise of his/her judicial authority.

court reporter: A person who transcribes by shorthand or stenographically takes down testimony during court proceedings.

creditor: Any person having a claim against a decedent or his/her estate.

custody: Legal or physical control of a person or thing; legal, supervisory or physical responsibility for a person or thing.

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decision: The determination reached by a court in any judicial proceeding.

decree: A final order signed by the Surrogate concluding the proceeding and determining the rights of the parties thereto.

devise: A gift or transfer by will of real property.

devisee: Any person receiving a gift of real property under a Will.

dismissal: Termination of a proceeding for a procedurally prescribed reason.

dismissal without prejudice: Permits the party to bring the action again on the same cause of action, while dismissal "with prejudice" bars the right to bring or maintain an action on the same claim or cause.

dispose: The act of terminating a judicial proceeding.

disposition: The result of a judicial proceeding by withdrawal, settlement, order or judgment.

distributee: Any person who would share in an estate pursuant to EPTL (Estates, Powers and Trusts Law) Section 4-1.1 or EPTL 4-1.2 if decedent did not leave a Will. Distributees are necessary parties to a probate proceeding because their right to share in the estate may be changed by the terms of the Will.

domicile: A fixed, permanent and principal home to which a person wherever temporarily located always intends to return.

domiciliary: a person whose domicile is within the State of New York.

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estate: All of the property of a decedent, infant or trust as originally constituted, and as from time to time exists during administration.

et al.: An abbreviation of et alia meaning "and others."

executor: Person named in a Will to represent the estate. In order to act in such capacity, the person must be appointed by the court.

exemplification (authentication): An official transcript under seal of a document from public records made in form to be used in evidence and authenticated as a true copy, whereby signatures of the Chief Clerk and the Surrogate are verified by each other.

ex parte: An application made to the court without notice to other parties.

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family tree: A chart showing a decedent's distributees.

fee: A fixed charge for services rendered on behalf of the court.

fiduciary: The representative of an estate appointed by the court as executor, administrator, guardian, trustee or conservator and their successors (SCPA 103 (21)).

filiation: Judicial determination of paternity.

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guardian: Any person to whom letters of guardianship, whether of the person, property or both, of an infant or mentally retarded or developmentally disabled person have been issued by a court of this state.

guardian ad litem: An attorney appointed by the court to protect in a proceeding the interests of an infant or a person under disability.

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hearing: An examination where evidence is taken for the purpose of determining an issue of fact and reaching a decision on the basis of that evidence.

hearsay: A type of testimony given by a witness who relates not what he/she knows personally, but what others have told the witness, or what the witness has heard said by others; may be admissible or inadmissible in court depending upon rules of evidence.

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incapacitated person: Any person who, for any cause, is incapable to adequately protect his/her rights, although not judicially declared an incompetent.

infant: Any person under 18 years of age in the State of New York; provided, however, that such definition shall not be applicable to any provision relating to the N.Y. Uniform Gifts to Minors Act, N.Y. Uniform Transfer to Minors Act nor SCPA 1716.

inter vivos trust: See lifetime trust.

intestate estate: An estate of a person who died without a Will.

issue: The descendants in any degree from a common ancestor including adopted children (EPTL 1-2.10).

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judicial settlement: A formal proceeding with notice to and the securing of jurisdiction over interested parties, whereby the court reviews and approves the account filed by the fiduciary of her/her administration of the estate and is adjudicated by decree of the court.

jurat: The clause written at the bottom of an affidavit stating when, where and before whom such affidavit was sworn.

jurisdiction: The geographic limits in which the court's authority can be exercised. Also refers to the power of the court to handle certain proceedings prescribed by law. (See Surrogate's Court)

jury: A prescribed number of persons selected according to law and sworn to make findings of fact.

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legatee: Any person designated to receive a transfer by will of personal property.

letters: Letters are the documents with the court seal showing the authority given in a decree signed by the Surrogate designating the person(s) or corporation to act as fiduciaries.

letters of administration
letters testamentary
letters of guardianship
preliminary letters
letters of administration c.t.a.
letters of administration d.b.n.
letters of trusteeship

liber: A book used for keeping a record of specific documents or events having legal effect.

lifetime trust (inter vivos trust): An express trust, including all amendments thereto, created during the grantors lifetime other than a trust for the benefit of creditors, a resulting or constructive trust, a business trust where certificates of beneficial interest are issued to the beneficiary, an investment trust, voting trust, a security instrument such as a deed of trust and a mortgage, a trust created by the judgment or decree of a court, a liquidation or reorganization trust.

limited letters: Document with court seal showing the authority given to a person or persons in a decree signed by the Surrogate designating that person or persons to act as fiduciary with specific limitations and restriction on the authority of the fiduciary so noted.

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non-marital child: Child born out-of-wedlock.

nunc pro tunc: (now for then) presently considered as if occurring at an earlier date; effective retroactively.

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oath and designation: A sworn statement taken before an officer authorized to administer oaths by a person in order to become a fiduciary. An oath states that the person will faithfully and honestly discharge the duties of his office. Designation authorizes the Chief Clerk to receive process issuing from his/her Surrogate's Court.

objection: A verified written statement in opposition to the relief sought in a petition.

order to show cause: Direction by the court requiring an expeditious determination for relief sought. See Process.

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parties: The litigants in a legal proceeding.

per capita: A method of distributing estate assets, whereby each beneficiary receives an equal share.

per stirpes: A distribution of property made to persons who take as issue, the share which their deceased ancestor would take if living. See Representation.

persons interested: Any person entitled either absolutely or contingently to share as beneficiary in the estate or the trustee in bankruptcy or receiver of such person. A creditor shall be deemed a person interested. Where SCPA provides that a "person interested" may apply for relief, a verified allegation of an interest in fact, suffices for the purpose of the application, although the interest may be disputed, unless or until the fact of interest has been judicially determined and no appeal is pending therefrom.

person under disability: Any person who is (a) an infant, (b) an incompetent, (c) an incapacitated person, (d) unknown or whose whereabouts are unknown, or (e) confined as a prisoner who fails to appear under circumstances which the court finds are due to confinement in a penal institution.

petition: A verified written request to commence any proceeding for specific relief.

petitioner: A person who signs and verifies a petition.

pleadings: Petition, answer and reply.

power of attorney: Instrument authorizing one to act legally for another either generally or in a specified matter.

preliminary executor: Person appointed as fiduciary prior to a Will being admitted to probate, with no power to make distribution of estate assets pursuant to the Will until such time as the Will has been admitted to probate.

probate: Proceeding of an estate of a person who dies leaving a Will; the filing and proving of that Will.

process: Statutory method necessary for the court to act and used by the court to put interested parties on notice of a petition and obtain jurisdiction over them.

EXAMPLES: citation
order to show cause

pro se: For oneself; in one's own behalf; in person; a pro se party is one who, without representation, acts as his/her own attorney.

property: Anything that may be the subject of ownership and is real or personal property. Personal property includes bank accounts, cash, personal belongings, household furnishings, etc. Real property includes land and any buildings thereon.

proponent: Person who institutes a proceeding to prove a Will.

Putnam Hearing: A proceeding to determine impropriety when an attorney who draws a Will is also a legatee, or where there is reason to belief that any professional person has exerted undue influence on the deceased prior to writing a Will.

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remainderman: One who is entitled to have distributed to him/her the remainder of an estate upon the expiration or termination of a trust or life tenancy.

renunciation of fiduciary letters: An acknowledged statement of a person or corporation that he/she/it is unwilling or unable to act in a fiduciary capacity.

representation: A per capita distribution at each generational level (EPTL 1-2.16).

residence: A place in which a person lives with or without an intention to make it a permanent home.

respondent: Every party to a proceeding except a petitioner.

retardate: A mentally retarded person (Mental Hygiene Law 1.03 (21)).

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seal: To close a case file from public scrutiny.

self-represented: Any person who represents himself/herself in a court proceeding.

service of process: Statutory method by which process is delivered (SCPA Section 307 and CPLR Section 308).

service: The exhibition or delivery of a writ, notice, etc., officially notifying a person of some action or proceeding in which that person is concerned.

show cause: An order, decree, execution, etc., to appear as directed, and present to the court such reasons and considerations as one has to offer why it should ot be confirmed, take effect, be executed, or as the case may be.

small estate proceeding: An SCPA Article 13 proceeding for a voluntary administration of an estate, for which the gross or date of death value does not exceed the statutory limit based upon the date of death.

stay: A stopping or suspension of procedure or execution by judicial or executive order.

stipulation: An agreement by attorneys on opposite sides of a case as to any matter pertaining to the proceedings or trial. Most stipulations must be in writing.

subpoena: A direction of the court issued by an attorney or the court, commanding a person to appear in court.

subpoena duces tecum: A subpoena commanding a person to produce in court, certain designated documents or records.

supplementary petition: A petition that is filed by a party which seeks to change, enforce or review the order of the court which was previously entered in disposition of an original petition.

surety: One who formally contracts to be responsible for the obligations of another person.

Surrogate's Court: Court of law and record that has jurisdiction over all actions and proceedings relating to the affairs of decedents, probate of wills, administration of estates, appointment of guardians and supervision of fiduciaries (SCPA 201). Surrogate's Court has concurrent jurisdiction with Family Court over adoptions.

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temporary administrator: Person appointed as fiduciary of an estate with or without a Will to collect and manage, but not distribute the assets of an estate until a permanent administrator is appointed.

testate estate: An estate of a decedent leaving a valid Will.

testator: A person who makes or has made a testament or Will; one who dies leaving a Will.

testimony: An oral declaration made by a witness or party under oath.

transcript: The official record of proceedings in a trial or hearing.

trial: The formal examination of a legal controversy in court so as to determine the issue.

trustee: A fiduciary named in a Will or trust agreement to be responsible for property to be managed and used for the benefit of a beneficiary.

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venue: The particular county, city or geographical area in which a court with jurisdiction may hear and determine a case.

verdict: The determination of a jury on the facts.

verification: A sworn statement by a person signing a petition that the statements made in the petition are true.

voluntary administrator: A person authorized to act under SCPA Article 13 as administrator to settle a small estate.

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waiver: An instrument signed by an interested party permitting the court to dispense with process.

will: A statement disposing of a person's property upon his/her death.

with prejudice: The term, as applied to a judgment of dismissal, is as conclusive of rights of parties as if action had been prosecuted to final adjudication adverse to the petitioner.

without prejudice: A dismissal "without prejudice" allows a new suit to be brought on the same cause of action.

witness: One who testifies to what he/she has seen, heard, or otherwise observed

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