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Frequently Asked Questions

Listed below in alphabetical order are several of the words, phrases and acronyms commonly used in the practice of estate planning, elder law, probate, estate administration, trust administration, guardianship, family law and real estate law. More information and context can be found where the terms are used elsewhere in this website.



Activities of Daily Living such as bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, incontinence issues, adjustments to a prosthetic limb, or getting out of bed to a chair. ADLs encompass activities that directly relate to a person’s basic functioning as an adult. For Medicaid, the ADLs are eating, toileting and ambulation (getting out of bed to a chair, etc.). To be medically eligible for Medicaid, one must require extensive assistance with 1 of those ADLs or limited assistance with 2 or more.


Administration is the process by which the intestate estate of a deceased person is administered so that good title to the decedent’s assets can be transferred to his or her heirs. Administration is initiated by filing a Petition for Administration with the Circuit Court of the county in which the decedent resided and asking that an administrator be appointed. It includes giving proper notice of the decedent’s death to interested parties including creditors; preparing an inventory of assets; collecting any sums owed to the decedent; paying debts of the decedent; obtaining any appraisals of property needed to obtain a fair price; filing appropriate tax returns; and otherwise managing and preserving the assets by making sure they are properly insured, invested and protected until they are conveyed to the beneficiaries. For more details see “Probate, Trust & Estate Administration” under Practice Areas.

Administration can also refer to the actions of a Trustee under a Trust and how he goes about his duties to manage the trust assets and distribute them according to the terms of the trust. But in most cases no court oversight is required for the administration of a Trust.

Administrator or Administratrix

The person who administers an intestate estate or a trust after a death. A male is called an Administrator whereas a female is called an Administratrix. An Administrator/Administratrix serves in a fiduciary capacity.

Affidavit for Collection of Small Estate

In some circumstances, an Affidavit for Collection of Small Estate may be used to avoid probate. This option is available, in general, for estates valued at less than $100,000, exclusive of a homestead. There are advantages including lower filing fees and shorter periods of administration, as well as disadvantages, such as it may not work well in all circumstances and for particular types of property. During our probate consultations, we always search for the simplest and least expensive option available to accomplish effective transfer of property and discuss advantages and disadvantages. To see how an Affidavit for Collection of Small Estate might work for your circumstances schedule a consultation.

Aid and Attendance

The highest level of the VA Pension benefit, A&A provides substantial tax-free income to a veteran or the veteran’s surviving spouse or dependent or disabled child to help pay for the cost of health care.

Ancillary Probate

An Arkansas resident who dies owning an interest in real property situated in another state will likely be required to conduct a probate proceeding in that other state in addition to a domiciliary probate in Arkansas. This probate in a state other than the deceased’s state of residence is known as “ancillary probate.” Ancillary probate may be required for each state where real property is owned, including a timeshare, mineral interest, shares in a cooperative apartment or other real property interest. Probate laws and fees are different for every state. But each state will require a separate legal proceeding initiated by filing a Petition for Ancillary Administration in that state, the appointment of a locally qualified administrator, publication of notices, dealing with creditors, and retaining local attorneys licensed in that state. Therefore, ancillary probate can substantially increase costs and fees. In addition, because the ancillary probate must be completed before the domically probate can be closed and the deceased’s assets distributed, it can also add significant time delays. Therefore, ownership of any real property interest in another state increases the need to explore methods to avoid probate and it makes one a better candidate for estate planning devices such as a the creation of a Revocable Living Trust, an Irrevocable Trust or a Limited Liability Company.

Assisted Living Facility

A facility that provides assistance to elderly or disabled adults in the least restrictive and most homelike environment possible, and which promotes the dignity, privacy and decision-making ability of its residents while providing for their health, safety and welfare. An ALF is not permitted to serve residents who require 24-hour nursing services, who are bedridden, or who present a danger to themselves or others. DHS licenses two levels of ALFs – Level I and Level II; only Level II ALFs are to administer medication to residents.


Any person, charitable organization or other entity named in a Will or Trust to receive some portion of the assets of the creator of the Will or Trust.

Beneficiary Deed

Sometimes referred to as a “transfer-on-death deed” or a “Lady Bird Deed,” a Beneficiary Deed is a deed that, if recorded during the grantor’s lifetime, will transfer title only upon the grantor’s death, similar to a pay on death designation on a bank account. Since there are ways to revoke a Beneficiary Deed during the lifetime of the grantor without the consent of the grantee, it not only can be used as a tool to avoid probate, but also avoids the negative consequences of naming another person as joint tenant with right of survivorship which exposes your property to the creditors and claims of the other person, or his or her spouse. In addition, the grantee is entitled to the same step-up in basis which would be received for inherited property via probate, thereby reducing income tax on the sale of the property. Such a deed fails if the grantee dies before the grantor, and the conveyance will not avoid estate recovery by Medicaid.

Beneficiary Designations

If properly drafted, beneficiary designations will permit some assets, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, to avoid probate. Improperly drafted beneficiary designations will result in the assets becoming a part of the probate estate, thereby subjecting them to additional costs, delays in distribution and exposure to claims of creditors. Beneficiary designations should be coordinated with the entire estate plan and should be reviewed periodically. Since beneficiary designations are typically not closely reviewed at the time signed, their results can be unpredictable. We frequently see beneficiary designations with no contingent beneficiary named, which creates uncertainty in the event of the death of a named beneficiary who has descendants and can require an unnecessary guardianship for minors. Poorly drafted beneficiary designations can also result in the loss of the ability to defer income tax on retirement plans over the lifetime of the designated beneficiary and cause the distribution of large amounts to those who lack the maturity and skills to properly manage assets. A carefully drafted trust designated as beneficiary can avoid many of the problems that arise from beneficiary designations.  A person who has not yet reached 18 years of age should never be named as a beneficiary.

Bill of Sale

A document that transfers title to personal property, much like a deed transfers title to real property.

Caregiver Agreement

An agreement, sometimes also referred to as a Personal Services Agreement, pursuant to which a friend, family member or other third party agrees, for compensation, to provide assistance to someone who needs help with finances or companion care, or coordinate, oversee and monitor the care received at a nursing facility.

Certification of trust (also known as a Privacy Affidavit)

A written document that a trustee of a trust may deliver, to anyone other than a beneficiary, in lieu of providing a copy of the trust. The document must state that the trust exists and the date the trust was executed, identify the creator of the trust, the name and address of the currently acting trustee, the powers of the trustee, state whether the trust is revocable and who must sign on behalf of the trust, and how the trust took title to the trust property. The Certification allows the substance of the trust – the assets it holds, and how they are to be distributed – to remain private.

Companion Care

General assistance with certain tasks incidental to independent living which do not involve skilled nursing care. Companion care includes help with housework, managing money, taking and managing medication, meal preparation and clean-up, grocery and clothes shopping, use of the telephone and other communication devices, transportation for general errands, pet care and responding to emergency alerts.

Decedent or Deceased

The person who died and whose estate or trust is being probated or administered.


An instrument by which the title to real property is conveyed by the owner(s) to one or more new owners.


The Arkansas Department of Human Services. DHS oversees Medicaid in Arkansas, publishes a Medical Services Policy Manual, and processes all Medicaid applications.

Disability Panel

As an alternative to court adjudication of incompetency individuals familiar with the grantor of a trust may be named as a Disability Panel. This can facilitate the establishment of authority for a successor trustee to manage the assets of a trust when a grantor is no longer capable of making sound business decisions.


A person entitled to receive property from a trust or the estate of a decedent.

Elder Law

Elder Law refers to an area of legal practice that includes estate planning, but specifically addresses the need of seniors and the infirm to protect their assets so they (a) do not fall victim to unscrupulous individuals and companies who prey on the vulnerable, and (b) can establish eligibility for Medicaid and/or VA Pension benefits to help pay for high quality long term care without impoverishing their spouse or completely depleting their estate.

Estate Recovery

The right of DHS to assert a lien against a Medicaid recipient’s real and personal property after his death in an effort to obtain reimbursement for the cost of his medical care to the extent paid by Medicaid. This right is available to DHS only if there is no surviving spouse, dependent child under age 21 or a blind or disabled child and recovery efforts are judged to be cost-effective.

Executor or Executrix

The person or trust company named in a Will to see that a testator’s assets are transferred to his or her beneficiaries, or that the assets are sold and the proceeds distributed to them. If male, this person is called the “executor”; if female, she is called the “executrix.” The executor or executrix is sometimes referred to as the personal representative.


A person legally appointed and authorized to hold or manage assets in trust for another person rather than for his or her own benefit, often for the beneficiaries of an estate or trust or for the principal under a power of attorney. A fiduciary is obligated to act in the best interests of another person, and with a duty of loyalty, good faith and care.

Final Disposition of Remains

The burial, interment, cremation, removal from the state, or other authorized disposition of a dead body or fetus. Anyone 18 years old or older who is mentally competent can sign a Declaration of Final Disposition to determine how his remains are to be handled.


The process of determining and implementing the most appropriate manner to transfer or convey assets to a trust.


A person appointed by a court in a guardianship proceeding to make decisions for a minor child or mentally incapacitated adult.


The court process by which a judge appoints someone to look after another person (the “ward”) who cannot make his own personal or health care decisions (“guardian of the person”) and/or financial decisions (“guardian of the estate”).  A guardian is often appointed for a minor child (under age 18) if his or her parents are not alive or suitable, or for a mentally incapacitated adult.  A guardianship can be temporary or permanent.  A guardian is subject to the ongoing supervision of the court and so must file an annual accounting with the court.  An adult can typically avoid a guardianship proceeding by signing a Durable Power of Attorney.  A minor child cannot avoid guardianship but parents can, if they wish, nominate who they wish to rear their children in the event they are not able to do so.  For more details see “Guardianship” under Practice Areas.


A person who is legally entitled to receive distribution of the property of another upon that person’s death.

HIPAA Authorization

A written document that, when signed by a competent adult, authorizes doctors, hospitals and other health care providers to release to the persons named therein the signer’s private medical information. A HIPAA Authorization is typically signed in connection with a Health Care Power of Attorney so that the agents appointed in the Power have the information needed to make health care decisions for the principal.

Hybrid LTCI

A type of life insurance that can be converted to a lifetime monthly payout to cover long term health care expenses if you need them, but with a death benefit to go to your designated beneficiaries if you do not. The advantage is that the money you pay as premiums is not wasted in the event you never require long term health care; the disadvantage is that such policies are not “partnership qualified” and the premiums will not be considered to be medical expenses.


A person who dies without a valid Will is said to have died “intestate.” If that happens, the decedent’s assets will be distributed to his or her family members as dictated by Arkansas law. Generally speaking, in Arkansas, if the decedent was married at the time of death, his or her children are entitled to all of his or her assets, subject to the surviving spouse’s right of dower or curtesy.

Irrevocable Trust

An Irrevocable Trust is an agreement with three parties: the Trust maker (or Grantor), the trust manager (or Trustee), and the Trust Beneficiaries. However, the Grantor may not serve as the Trustee or as a Beneficiary of an irrevocable trust drafted to assist with eligibility for Medicaid or VA Pension benefits. Rather, you must cede all control over your assets to one or more third parties whom you name as Trustee. Responsible and trustworthy adult children sometimes serve in this capacity; other times it is best to name a corporate trust officer. You may not amend or revoke an irrevocable trust. Irrevocable Trusts are used to protect your assets while you are alive, and avoid probate and determine to whom your assets will be distributed after your death.

Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship

A type of joint ownership of real or personal property where each owner has an undivided interest in the property, and the survivor will inherit the rights of an owner who dies. Joint tenancy has the advantage of avoiding probate at the death of the first owner. However, the Will of the surviving owner will have to be probated unless the property is held in trust. Some people attempt to avoid probate by adding the names of adult children or others to their assets. We advise against this because it may subject their assets to loss through the debts, bankruptcies, divorces and/or lawsuits of any additional joint tenants, and it will cause the new owner to lose the step-up in basis that he would have gotten if he had inherited the property. Also, a joint owner does not have a fiduciary duty to another owner.

Life Insurance Trust

An irrevocable trust in which the trust is both the owner and the beneficiary of one or more life insurance policies. Upon the death of the insured, the Trustee invests the insurance proceeds and administers the trust for one or more beneficiaries named in the trust. Once established, a life insurance trust cannot be amended or revoked. Life insurance trusts are primarily used to remove from the estate (and from estate tax) the proceeds of a large life insurance policy. Also, it can give the insured more flexibility and control with respect to the distribution of the insurance proceeds than the beneficiary designations on the policy.

Living Will

Sometimes called a Declaration Regarding Life-Sustaining Treatment, a Living Will allows anyone age 18 or older who is diagnosed with an incurable or irreversible condition that is expected to cause death within a relatively short time, to state his or her wishes in advance regarding what types of medical life support measures should be withheld or withdrawn. The Living Will takes effect when that person is no longer able to make decisions regarding medical treatment.

Living Trust

A trust created during the lifetime of the trust creator, often called the Grantor or Settlor. A living trust can be revocable or irrevocable.

Long Term Care Insurance or LTCi

A policy of insurance that helps to pay for the cost of long term health care. Generally speaking, you must have required care for at least 90 days – sometimes longer – before the proceeds will be available. And proceeds will typically be paid under a policy of long term care insurance (LTCI) only if you require assistance with one or more ADLs; companion care is typically not covered. However, home health care can be covered; the terms of each policy will vary. The proceeds of a “partnership qualified” policy of LTCI are considered by Medicaid to be exempt income. Hybrid LTCI policies are typically not “partnership qualified.”


The period of time that Medicaid or the VA will look back to see if you have given away any assets (transferred them for less than fair market value). Currently, Medicaid imposes a sixty (60) month lookback period, and a penalty for any assets transferred during that time. The laws that regulate the VA do not authorize any lookback but many VA centers, when processing an application for a VA Pension, are imposing a lookback. VA Rules have been proposed to create a thirty-six (36) month lookback at the transfer of assets or income.


A government-run health insurance program for people of any age who have a medical need, extremely low income, and either no assets or assets of very little value. Medicaid is means-tested, and funded jointly by the federal government and states. Medicaid will pay for many long term care expenses – whether at home, in assisted living or a nursing home – to the extent they exceed a patient’s household income. Medical need is established if one requires extensive assistance with eating, toileting or transferring in or out of bed, or limited assistance with two or more of those activities.


A government entitlement program available to every U.S. citizen who reaches age 65 and is eligible to receive Social Security. Medicare is funded solely at the federal level; while it’s primarily for persons age 65 and older, some with disabilities or end-stage renal disease also qualify. Medicare is not means-tested.

Miller Trust (also known as a Qualified Income Trust or QIT)

A trust established to assist with eligibility for Medicaid when the household income of a Medicaid applicant exceeds the prescribed limit but does not greatly exceed the monthly household cost of medical care. Once created, all income is assigned to the trust and then expressly goes to pay for medical care, food, clothing, transportation and shelter for the individual. Upon the Medicaid recipient’s death, all assets remaining in the QIT will be paid to DHS up to the amount paid by DHS for his/her medical care.

Nursing Home

A facility that provides 24-hour skilled nursing care, including pharmaceutical and dietary services, to elderly or disabled adults; rehabilitative care; routine personal hygiene services; and/or care to those who are bedridden, who present a danger to themselves or others, or who require substantial assistance to vacate the premises in an emergency.

Partnership Qualified LTCI

A long term care insurance policy that meets certain state requirements, including alerting consumers to the availability of consumer information and public education offered by DHS, offers an option to cover home and community-based services in addition to nursing facility care, and offers inflation protection. The proceeds paid out to the insured under a partnership qualified policy of LTCI are excluded from countable resources when Medicaid eligibility is being determined.

Personal Representative

The person or trust company named in a Will to see that a testator’s assets are transferred to his or her beneficiaries, or that the assets are sold and the proceeds distributed to them. The personal representative under a Will is sometimes referred to as an "executor" if male or an "executrix" if female. Also, we sometimes refer to the Administrator of an intestate estate or the trustee of a trust after the death of the trust maker as a Personal Representative.

Pet trust

A trust, whether a living trust or a testamentary trust, created to provide for the trust creator’s pets after he or she dies. These are typically used for horses, exotic birds and other animals who have a long life-expectancy, or for dogs and other pets who are expensive to maintain due to breed, health condition, the lifestyle to which they are accustomed, or for other reasons.

Power of Attorney

A voluntary delegation of authority by one person (a Principal) to a person who the Principal knows well and trusts (his Agent) to take care of the Principal’s financial affairs and/or to make his health care decisions when he is unable or unavailable to do so himself. You will typically sign a Power of Attorney for financial matters and a separate Power of Attorney for health care (sometimes called an Advance Directive). The Power of Attorney can take effect immediately, or it can be springing, in which event it will take effect only after the Principal loses mental capacity. If a Power of Attorney is “durable” it continues in effect after the Principal loses mental capacity. An Agent under a Power of Attorney has a fiduciary duty to act loyally and in the best interests of the Principal. If you become mentally incapacitated without a Durable Power of Attorney in place then you and your family will be involved in a guardianship proceeding.

Premarital Agreement

A contract, signed by individuals in contemplation of marriage, to protect assets owned before the marriage, or assets and income acquired or earned during the marriage, from being subject to division in the event of the death of one of the parties, or upon divorce.  A premarital agreement cannot alter child support obligations or cause either party to be eligible for public assistance.  Also, it will be ignored for purposes of Medicaid eligibility.


The person who signs a power of attorney and thereby delegates to an agent authority to act on such person’s behalf.


To probate a Will means to file a petition with the circuit court in the county where the decedent resided, with the Will attached, and to take the steps required by statute to administer the estate of the decedent. This includes giving proper notice of the decedent’s death to creditors; preparing and filing an inventory of assets; collecting any sums owed to the decedent; paying debts of the decedent; obtaining any appraisals of property needed to obtain a fair price; filing appropriate tax returns; and otherwise managing and preserving the decedent’s assets by making sure they are properly insured, invested and protected until they are conveyed to the beneficiaries. Probate proceedings can be expensive and time-consuming. And, because the court proceedings and associated documents are all a matter of public record many people choose to create a trust to avoid probate and thereby save money, spare their heirs a legal hassle, and keep their personal affairs private.

Probate Estate

All of the assets of the decedent which are subject to probate administration. Generally speaking, this is all assets owned by the decedent at the time of death other than assets that pass by beneficiary designation or joint ownership with rights of survivorship. Life insurance policies, qualified retirement accounts, investment accounts, certificates of deposit and bank accounts, among other assets, can pass by beneficiary designation. And property owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship will pass to the remaining joint owners. In such events the assets will not be part of the probate estate.

Quitclaim Deed

A written instrument that, when properly drafted and signed by the owner of real property with the signature notarized, transfers to the grantee whatever title the grantor may have in the property therein described. There is no warranty that the grantor owns any interest in the property, nor are there assurances regarding liens and encumbrances.

Revocable Living Trust a/k/a RLT

A Revocable Living Trust is an agreement with three parties: the Trust maker (or Grantor), the Trust manager (or Trustee), and the Trust beneficiaries. You may name yourself in all three capacities; you then retain complete control over your trust, including the right to manage and use all of the trust assets and even amend or revoke the trust. You should name others as successor trustees ("back-up" managers) and as beneficiaries. RLTs are used to avoid probate while retaining control over your assets while you are alive and determining to whom they will be distributed after your death. But RLTs offer no protection of assets against creditors nor do they assist with planning for long term care expenses. In fact, a home held by an RLT is a countable resource by Medicaid whereas a trust held by the individual is not.


A Last Will and Testament that leaves everything outright to your spouse or, if you are not survived by a spouse, to your children, divided equally, or if you have no spouse or children, to one to four named individuals or charities.  A Simple Will is not appropriate if you have a child or other beneficiary with special needs, you want to leave any money or asset in trust (rather than outright), or you wish to avoid probate.

Small Estate

An estate valued at less than $100,000, exclusive of the decedent’s homestead.

Special Needs Trust

A trust created for the benefit of someone who is either mentally or physically disabled and so is said to have “special needs.”

Taxable Estate

An estate valued at more than $5.49 million for an unmarried person, or $10.98 million for a married couple, as of 2017.

Tenancy by the Entirety

This is what we call joint tenancy with right of survivorship when it is between spouses, and it is the most common form of asset ownership between spouses. Joint tenancy is a type of joint ownership of real or personal property where each owner has an undivided interest in the property, and the survivor will inherit the rights of an owner who dies. It has the advantage of avoiding probate at the death of the first spouse. However, the Will of the surviving spouse will have to be probated unless the property is held in trust. Some people attempt to avoid probate by adding the names of adult children or others to their assets. We advise against this because it may subject their assets to loss through the debts, bankruptcies, divorces and/or lawsuits of any additional joint tenants, and it will cause the new owner to lose the step-up in basis that he would have gotten if he had inherited the property. Also, a joint owner does not have a fiduciary duty to another owner.

Testamentary Trust

A trust created after the lifetime of the trust creator, typically due to provisions in the decedent’s will or living trust.


A person who dies with a valid Will in place is said to have died “testate.”

Testator and Testatrix

The person who signs the Will is the Testator (referred to the Testatrix if female).


The person named in a trust to manage, invest, preserve and distribute the trust assets. Often, the maker of a revocable trust is the initial Trustee, but a successor trustee is named to take over when the original trustee is no longer able to act, whether due to mental incapacity or death. A trustee owes a fiduciary obligation to the grantor of the trust and to the trust beneficiaries.


Unreimbursed Medical Expenses. In other words, the cost of health care that is not paid or reimbursed by health insurance, long term care insurance or another source of payment. Premiums for health insurance, whether private, Medicare or long term care insurance, are considered medical expenses. The entire cost of a nursing home, or of an assisted living facility that assists with ADLs, is deemed to be a medical expense.


The Veterans Administration

VA Compensation

A benefit paid to a veteran who was injured, or aggravated an injury, in the service. The injury must be service-connected and it is not means-tested. He or she must simply have a disability rating of 10% or more.

VA Pension

A tax-free income benefit paid to any wartime veteran who has a financial need – no service-connected injury, or even in-country or combat duty, is required. Some disability is required unless the veteran is age 65 or older. There are three levels of the VA Pension: Improved Pension (the base level), Homebound and Aid and Attendance (also known as A&A)

Visitation Directive

A document that any competent adult can sign to state who should be considered to be his or her “family” for purposes of health care laws, and who may visit when in the hospital or another health care facility.


The minor or incapacitated person for whom a court appoints a guardian.

Wartime Period

Any period of time that Congress recognizes, for purposes of the VA Pension, that the United States military was at war. These periods are: WWII: 12/7/41 to 12/31/46; Korea: 6/27/50 to 12/31/55; Vietnam: 8/5/64 (but 2/28/61 if in-country) to 5/7/75; and Gulf War: 8/2/90 to TBD.

Warranty Deed

A written instrument that, when properly drafted and signed by the owner of real property with the signature notarized, guarantees that good and marketable title to the property is being conveyed to the grantee, free and clear of liens and encumbrances.


Also known as a Last Will and Testament, a Will says who should inherit your assets after your death, and when (immediately or over a period of years), and who should oversee the administration of your estate and the distribution of those assets. A Will has no legal effect until the testator dies and the original Will is filed with the Probate Court.

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The attorneys of Ball Corley PLLC proudly serve the entire State of Arkansas with respect to:  Estate Planning (wills, trusts, powers of attorney, HIPAA authorizations, living wills and visitation directives); Elder Law (Medicaid, veterans administration pension and long term care planning); Probate; Trust and Estate Administration; Guardianships; Premarital Agreements; LGBT Laws; and Real Estate Transactions.

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