Estate Planning has its own vocabulary. To help you speak the language, we've created a glossary of the more commonly used words and phrases. This glossary is comprised of 26 individual pages, one for each letter of the alphabet. To find a particular word or phrase that starts with the letter "S" - simply scroll down the list below. If your word or phrase starts with another letter, please use the alphabet index below.




The term "settlor" is often used to describe a person who establishes or creates a trust. See also "donor," "grantor," and "trustor," all of which are used synonymously with the term "settlor."


The term "situs" is a Latin term meaning location. It is a term used to indicate where a trust is located so as to determine which courts have jurisdiction over it.

Special (supplemental) needs trust

A "special needs trust" is a trust created for the sole purpose of supplementing government benefits (Medicaid, SSI) that are paid to a disabled person, without causing the beneficiary (the disabled person) to lose government benefits. A special needs trust is set up to provide benefits above and beyond the basic necessities of life (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) for the disabled person. Examples of the types of benefits provided to a disabled person through a special needs trust are tickets to sporting events, movies, and the theater; vacations; dinner at a favorite restaurant; special clothing, vocational supplies, etc. Parents are often hesitant to provide an inheritance for a disabled child for fear that any money given to such child would be taken by the state in payment of back benefits. A special needs trust is one way to retain government assistance and still be able to provide for a disabled child long after the parents are gone. Keep in mind, however, that each state has its own rules regarding special needs trusts and the rules are tricky. For this reason, you should not attempt to create a special needs trust without the advice of an attorney who is well versed in these types of trusts.

Spendthrift provision

A "spendthrift provision" is a clause or paragraph commonly found in trust instruments stating that a beneficiary’s interest in the income and/or principal of the trust cannot be assigned, pledged, attached or subject to the claims of creditors (including claims for alimony or support) until actually distributed to the beneficiary. A spendthrift clause is designed to protect the assets of the trust from creditors of beneficiaries. It also prevents the beneficiaries from pledging their interest in the trust as collateral for loans, which protects the interest of beneficiaries - at least until the money is actually distributed to them.


Split-interest trust

The term "split-interest trust" refers to a charitable trust established under federal tax laws wherein the present interest and the remainder interest are split between charitable and non-charitable beneficiaries. See “charitable lead trust” and “charitable remainder trust.”

Substitute Trustee

A "substitute trustee" (also known as an "alternate trustee") is a person or entity designated in a trust instrument to take over for the original trustee upon the original trustee’s inability or unwillingness to serve, whether due to his or her resignation, removal, death or disability.

Successor Trustee

A "successor trustee" is a substitute trustee who becomes an acting trustee.