Defining The Legal Concept Of An ‘Estate’

On one level, the concept of an estate is not that unfamiliar. Any Texas fan of “Downton Abbey” can tell you that term refers to a large mansion and its grounds.

That’s true, of course, but in the legal world, the term “estate” means something very different entirely. It is important that all adults have an understanding of what an estate is, because being well-informed about this legal concept makes it less likely that a person will leave some important matter unattended to or valuable rights unexercised.

In very general legal terms, an estate refers to all that a person owns, meaning all the things that may be distributed upon his or her death. While that includes the common-sense things, like cash, real estate and personal possessions, it also means the legal rights that a person has. (Not all legal rights survive the death of the holder, but some do.)

What brings this up is recent news that the estate of an independent contractor who was killed at a Dallas worksite was granted permission by a court to intervene in a related case against an insurance company. The federal judge overseeing the case agreed that the estate of the deceased worker had an interest in the case, and so permitted it to become involved.

We mention this story because it is an example of how an estate can exercise certain legal rights that a person has, even if the person is deceased. Because our legal system recognizes the concept of an estate, worthy and important legal rights do not necessarily vanish upon a person’s death.

A single blog post is not quite the right medium to elaborate in great detail on every aspect and element of the legal concept of an estate, but hopefully, this post has given you a good, fundamental understanding of its contours. It is likely that future posts will also inform your understanding of the legal concept of an estate.

If you are interested in making plans for the future, we invite you to contact us at your convenience.