Legal Terms And Medical Directives Terminology You Should Know About

These are a few terms that you should begin to familiarize yourself with. They are by no means here to dictate the how to’s . They are merely here to make you aware of certain terms that you should learn more about and you should in all cases seek legal and financial professional services to help you put your affairs in order.

You and your loved one should plan ahead to prepare documents which will assist you both in the event that your loved one can no longer decide what is best for them physically, financially and legally or in the case of their timely death.


Person appointed by a court to manage the estate of a person who dies without a Will.

Advanced Directives

This type of directive is available in some states so it is important to check out if this will hold up in your directives state what the medical establishment can provide for you including medications, life support, hydration and nutrition, based on the diagnosis of your regular physician who is treating you. You should make sure your regular physician has this notated on your records. A member of the family or someone who is close to the individual should have a copy of this directive.

By creating an Advance Directive, you are informing your physician, as well as other health care providers and your family of the types of medical treatment and care you want or do not want should you be unable to make decisions for yourself. It also relieves family and friends from having to make decisions for you in terms of life prolonging situations.


A person designated to receive the income, principal or proceeds of a trust, estate, insurance policy or retirement plan.

Charitable Trust

A trust having a charitable organization as a beneficiary

Corporate Fiduciary

An institution which acts for the benefit of another. One example is a bank acting as a trustee.


The deceased.

Durable Power of Attorney

A legal document empowering someone to handle your affairs if you are comatose, mentally incompetent or otherwise incapacitated – but still alive.


Your net worth, or everything you own, minus everything you owe.

Estate Administration

The process of finding out where all the assets and bills are, reading the Will and carrying out wishes of the deceased.

Estate Tax

The tax paid by the administrator or executor of a person’s estate out of the estate’s assets.

Executor (or Personal Representative)

Someone appointed by a person in a Will to carry out the Will’s provisions. A “co-executor” acts as executor with another or others.


A person in a position of trust or confidence. The fiduciary is bound by duty to act in good faith. Example: trustees, executors and administrators.

Gift Tax

Tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient.


Incompetent by the law to handle their own physical care and the care of their property, a guardian is designated.

Health Power Of Attorney

This is a document in which an individual gives you, another family member, a friend, etc. the power to make decisions based on their health in the event that they are not capable of doing so themselves. This means that they decide on whether or not you are to receive treatment, indicated procedures and so forth. They act in the patient’s behalf, usually as directed by the patient before they become incapacitated. This is a legal document and it must be witnessed by a disinterested party and should be notarized. This may also be known as a Health Proxy. Your physician, a family member and others should have a copy of this you choose to change your directive, it should be written signed and dated and copies should be given to those individuals that have your original directive.

The person(s) you designate to have power of attorney have the same rights that the patients does with regard to accessing the medical records.

Living Will

This document instructs your doctor or the ones who are caring for you on your wishes as to whether or not you want to be resuscitated, kept on life support equipment, a respirator or feeding tube. It states when and what you want depending on the nature of the situation and in most cases it is used when someone is terminal. You decide this in advance when you draw up your will. This will does not direct someone to act in your behalf.

Power of Attorney

This document designates an individual to handle your financial affairs if you become incapable of doing so. This document should clearly indicate all conceivable situations that might arise which you want to delegate. It is a revocable document. It terminates once the individual has died. The statement must be witnessed by two adults, one who is a disinterested part and signed in front of a notary .


After a person is deceased, an executor is named to manage the deceased’s estate. All taxes, debts and expenses must be paid and then the remaining estate is distributed as designated in the deceased’s will. This is all done
through the Probate Courts; although there
are tax calculators that can help one get a better idea of the

These are but a few terms that you should familiarize yourself with. Again, the information included here is to make you aware of certain legal and medical terms that are necessary to deal with in one’s life. You should consult the proper legal resources as well as financial resources in making your decisions.

Probate Estate

Those estate assets which fall within the jurisdiction of the probate court before being transferred to another person. Life insurance proceeds, for example, are not generally part of the probate estate.

Successor Trustee or Executor

An individual or institution which takes the place of a trustee or executor who can no longer hold office.


A person who makes or has made a Will.

Testamentary Trust

A trust established in a Will which begins after the testator’s death.


A legal relationship where property is transferred to and managed by another person or institution for the benefit of another person.

Trust Agreement

A document which creates a trust and establishes the rules which control the trust’s management.

Unified Credit

A federal tax credit which offsets gift tax and estate tax liability. The unified credit is being increased gradually from $192,800 in 1997 to $345,800 in 2006, which is equivalent to a combined gift and estate tax exclusion of $600,000 in 1997 and $1 million in 2006.


A will is also known as a Last Will and Testament. It describes how the individual’s estate consisting of personal property and assets are to be distributed after their death usually to family, friends, charities etc. It designates a person(s) who will be responsible for seeing that taxes and outstanding debts are paid, how a trust is to be handled, funeral arrangements and more. This individual is called the executor. It is important to have a will because in the event that there is no will, the courts can decide how things will be dispersed.


  • Ms. Mitchell began her full-time caregiving experience in the early eighties when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Later on she became the primary caregiver for her father, along with her mother who had become critically ill from burnout prior to her dad’s passing. In recent years, she cared for several friends with AIDS while continuing to care for her mother and actively providing support, information, referrals and resources for caregivers.

    Gail's leadership on the Internet and her success with Empowering Caregivers led her to found National Organization For Empowering Caregivers (NOFEC) INC in 2001.

    Prior to founding NOFEC, she created the iVillageHealth Chat: Empowering Caregivers, which she hosted for over 5 years. Within a month of hosting she created Empowering Caregivers: in 1999 as a resource for caregivers around the globe. Over three million visitors have frequented the website.

    She has presented at national and international care-related conferences and programs and has been a keynote speaker for many programs as well.

    Ms Mitchell has assisted thousands of caregivers online and offline in ways to empower themselves in their roles in caring for loved ones.

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    Gail's articles have been published in many venues nationally and in Canada. Presently, she is a member of American Society on Aging and National Quality Caregivers Coalition.

    Gail has discovered that there is life after caregiving: She has become a successful ceramic artist and installation artist. She created Crystal Illumination Art to bring the transformative quality of illumination, light and color to the human experience and celebrate its ability to inspire, heal and nourish our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being.