Estate Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Estate, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Estate?

n. 1) all that one owns in real estate and other assets. 2) commonly, all the possessions of one who has died and are subject to probate (administration supervised by the court) and distribution to heirs and beneficiaries, all the possessions which a guardian manages for a ward (young person requiring protection and administration of affairs), or assets a conservator manages for a conservatee (a person whose physical or mental lack of competence requires administration of his/her affairs). 3) an alternative term for real property interest which is used in conjunction with another defining word, like “life estate,” “estate for years,” or “real estate.”

History and Meaning of Estate

Estate is a term used in law to describe the total amount of property and assets an individual owns, either at present or after their death. It can also refer to the property left behind by a deceased person, which has to be distributed among the heirs or beneficiaries. The term 'estate' comes from the French word 'état', which means state or condition. The concept of estate has existed for centuries, dating back to ancient Roman law.

Examples of Estate

  1. John's estate consists of his house, car, bank accounts, and investments.
  2. After her father's death, Sarah inherited her father's estate, which included a large farm and several rental properties.
  3. The court appointed a guardian to manage Mark's estate until he turned 18.
  4. Susan's estate plan included a provision to leave her entire estate to charity.
  5. The executor of the estate was responsible for paying off any outstanding debts and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

Legal Terms Similar to Estate

  1. Real property - Refers to land and any permanent fixtures on it, like buildings or trees.
  2. Personal property - Refers to movable assets like furniture, vehicles, and jewelry.
  3. Trust - A legal arrangement where a trustee holds and manages assets for the benefit of a beneficiary.
  4. Probate - The legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, including settling outstanding debts and distributing assets to heirs or beneficiaries.
  5. Intestate - Refers to a person who dies without a valid will, in which case their estate will be distributed according to state law.