The television show, Grey’s Anatomy, first aired when I was a young attorney. The show, created by Shonda Rhimes, stars “Meredith Grey” but is of course named after the famous medical textbook, Gray’s Anatomy, by Henry Gray, a surgeon from the Nineteenth Century. As a lawyer, I wondered what would be the legal equivalent of Gray’s Anatomy? The best I could come up with was Black’s Law Dictionary, the most popular dictionary of legal terms which was created by Henry Campbell Black and first published in 1891.
I decided that if I ever wrote a legal drama, I would indeed call it Black’s Law Dictionary. The show would star “Bing Black,” a charismatic and debonair estate planning lawyer who helps people solve their problems without any drama or strife. After all, there aren’t any T.V. shows or movies about estate planning attorneys and it’s about time legal practice areas other than criminal law and civil litigation get some pop culture exposure.
Many of my friends suggested that my working title of Black’s Law Dictionary should drop “dictionary” to simply be Black’s Law. To them, the word, “dictionary,” did not connote excitement and interest. However, being the English Major and vocabulary lover that I am, I liked the idea of a hit T.V. show featuring “dictionary” in its title.
Alas, I never got around to writing my show and a few years ago Shonda Rhimes beat me to the punch. She created a captivating legal drama of her own: How to Get Away with Murder. In case there is any doubt, the show is not about an estate planning attorney. It is instead about a criminal law attorney and her eager first-year law students. I have to admit, How to Get Away with Murder is a better title for a T.V. show than Black’s Law Dictionary. As it turns out, I make a much better lawyer than a hit T.V. show creator (so far).
In honor of the hit T.V. show that never was, below are some entries from the original (and to date the only) Black’s Law Dictionary.
Trust: A property interest held by one person (trustee) at the request of another (grantor) for the benefit of a third party (beneficiary).
Grantor (also Settlor or Trustor): One who establishes a trust. (Trust-Maker.)
Trustee: One who, having legal title to property, holds it in trust for the benefit of another and owes a fiduciary duty to that beneficiary. (Trust-Manager.)
Beneficiary: One designated to receive something as a result of a legal arrangement or instrument.
Fiduciary: One who owes to another the duties of good faith, trust, confidence, and candor; One who must exercise a high standard of care in managing another’s money or property.
Duty: A legal obligation that is owed or due to another and that needs to be satisfied; an obligation for which somebody else has a corresponding right.
Precatory: Requesting, recommending, or expressing a desire for action but in a non-binding way.
Mandatory: Of, relating to, or constituting a command; required; preemptory.
Revocable: Capable of being cancelled or withdrawn.
Irrevocable: Unalterable; committed beyond recall.
Corpus: The property for which a trustee is responsible; the trust principal.
Trust Funding: The act of transferring property to a trust.
Distribution: The act or process of apportioning or giving out.
Trust Amendment: A formal revision or addition made to a trust.
Trust Restatement: A formal re-writing of the entire trust.
Power of Appointment: A power conferred on a beneficiary to select and nominate one or more additional recipients of the trust.
Principal: The corpus of a trust.
Income: The money or other form of payment that the trust receives.
HEMS: A distribution standard often found in trusts which stands for “health, education, maintenance, and support.”
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Disclaimer: This article is for general information only. Reading this article does not establish an attorney/client relationship. Before acting on any of the information presented in this article, you should consult a competent attorney who is licensed to practice law in your community.