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 "I" - simply scroll down the list below. If your word or phrase starts with another letter, please use the alphabet index below.



Income beneficiary

An "income beneficiary" is a person or entity designated to receive income from a trust.


v. The term "inherit" means, in a legal sense, to receive property from an ancestor or another person by legal succession or will.


n. The term "inheritance" refers to the actual property received from an ancestor or another person by legal succession or will.

Inter vivos

"Inter vivos" is a Latin term meaning "between lives." It is frequently used to indicate an event or an occurrence that takes place during one's lifetime, such as a lifetime gift (see "inter-vivos gift" below) and a trust created during one's lifetime (see "inter-vivos trust" below).

Inter-vivos gift

The term "inter-vivos gift" refers to a gift made during a person's lifetime. See the definition of "inter vivos" above. Although the term "inter-vivos gift" is still in use today, many people refer to a gift made during a person's lifetime as a "life-time gift."

To qualify as a lifetime or "inter-vivos" gift, three requirements must be satisfied: 

          Present Donative Intent - i.e., the donor must intend to make a gratuitous transfer of money or property.
          Delivery - i.e., the money or property must be delivered to the donee.
          Acceptance - i.e., the donee must accept the money or property.
For further explanation of inter-vivos gifts, including a number of good examples illustrating the three requirements to qualify as a lifetime or "inter-vivos" gift, please see Gifts (inter vivos and causa mortis) - material adopted from Gary W. Beyer, Professor of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law.

See also "gifts causa mortis" and "testamentary gifts."

Inter-vivos trust

The term "inter-vivos trust" refers to a trust that is created during a person’s lifetime. See the definition of the term "inter vivos" above. Today, only a few legal scholars refer to a trust created during a person's lifetime as an inter-vivos trust. Instead, most people refer to a trust created during a person’s lifetime as a "living trust." By contrast, a trust created under a Last Will and Testament, which is intended to take effect only after a testator's death, is referred to as a testamentary trust. See "testamentary trust."

Intestacy laws

The term "Intestacy laws" refers to the body of common law that determines who is entitled to intestate property when a deceased person dies intestate; i.e., without a valid will. Now, each state has codified the common law pertaining to the disposition of intestate property into statutes, which are generally referred to as the laws of descent and distribution or as intestate succession statutes. For a description of each state's intestacy laws, please click here.


If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died intestate. The word "intestate" is derived from the prefix "In" (meaning "not") plus the word "testatus" or "testate" (meaning "to make a will," as derived from the past participle of the Latin word "testārī").

Intestate property

The term "intestate property" refers to the particular property in a deceased person's probate estate that does not pass under the terms of the deceased person's will, either because the deceased person didn't leave a valid will or because the deceased person's will was found to be invalid as to certain parts or portions thereof.

Investment Trustee

An "investment trustee" is a person or entity that is responsible for making investment decisions for a trust.

Irrevocable Trust

An "irrevocable trust" is a trust that cannot be revoked once it has been established. For all practical purposes, an "irrevocable trust" also means that the instrument establishing the trust cannot be amended, changed or modified in any respect. In an irrevocable trust, the grantor gives up all control over the trust and the trust becomes governed solely by the terms of the trust instrument.

While the majority of living trusts are revocable and subject to amendment or change at any time, there are certain situations where it is desirable or even necessary to place certain assets into an irrevocable trust. The most common situation is the avoidance of estate taxes upon the death of the grantor. [See "life insurance trust"] Another common situation involves property settlements as part of a divorce. For example, a court may mandate that certain property be set aside in an irrevocable trust for the benefit of minor children. Still another situation involves a personal injury settlement for a minor child. Whenever a minor child becomes entitled to property, whether from a personal injury settlement or otherwise, the laws of most states require that the property be held in an irrevocable trust until the child reaches majority age.


The word "issue" generally means all persons who have descended from a common ancestor. However, in many cases, the term has been used in a more restrictive sense than, say, the term "descendant." For example, the word "issue" has often been limited to legitimate descendants. As a practical matter, however, there is little distinction between the term "issue" and the term "descendant." See "descendant."