Glossary

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Headstone

A piece of rock or stone that is placed at the head of a grave and typically engraved with the deceased’s name, birth date, death date, as well as other information. Oftentimes headstone refers to a stone that stands vertically at the grave.

Heir

While we generally hear this term used to refer to the first-born child of a king or queen, in the United States, the term has a very specific meaning when used in the context of a decedent’s estate. An heir can be the child, parent, or even sibling of the decedent. An heir is typically a person who is related to the decedent and will receive all or a portion of the decedent’s estate.

The term heir does not apply, though, until the decedent’s death. That’s why we use the term “heir apparent” when referring to the person we believe will inherit. It is possible an heir apparent could die before the person whose estate is to be distributed. Therefore, the person was not an heir.

Holographic Will

A holographic will is a handwritten will. The laws of most states require a holographic will to be entirely in the handwriting of the person creating it. This means that some states will not recognize a will typed by the creator as a holographic will. Most states also require that a holographic will be signed in some way.

Homestead

A homestead is where a family or person lives. It includes both the home and adjoining land or property on which the home is located.

Honorarium

A payment for a provided service. Due to tradition or propriety, it is called this term instead of being called a fee. For example, if a member of the clergy speaks at a funeral, their fee will often be referred to as an honorarium.

Honorary Trust

An honorary trust is a trust that does not have a human or organizational beneficiary. Because of this, a trustee is said to be “on his or her honor” to carry out the wishes of the creator of the trust as established in the trust document. People generally create an honorary trust to care for pets left behind after death or to maintain their burial grounds. Different states have different laws governing how long these trusts can last. But generally if the trust is for the care of a pet it lasts for the life of the pet. If the trust is to care for the burial grounds, the trust might last anywhere from 21 years to a lifetime, plus 21 years.