Estate Planning Glossary






A common law doctrine when assets of the deceased are less than the debts to the creditors and those debts must be paid first


The process by which the assets of a deceased person is gathered in and dispersed to the rightful heirs where there is no Will, or to the beneficiaries if there is a Trust or Will


A person appointed by law to settle the affairs of someone who dies without a Will


A voluntary statement in writing, sworn before a nominated official, such as notary public, solicitor, or Justice of the Peace

Age of majority

An age at which a person is granted legal rights (e.g. ability to sue) and legal responsibilities (e.g. liability under a contract) as if an adult. In most States and Territories, this age is 18 years


The transfer of rights held by one party to another party

Attest | Attestation

To attest a Will is to witness its execution by seeing the testator sign or acknowledge the Will


A person or organisation receiving a gift from a Will


A verb which means to give; to grant or give something to another person or entity


A gift in a Will left to a specific person or organisation


To leave a bequest in a Will

Breach of Trust

Failure of a trustee to fulfil required duties; includes doing things illegally, negligently or forgetfully

Capital Gains Tax

A tax that is assessed on the difference between the cost basis (the original amount of purchase) of an asset and its fair market value


A supplement to a Will containing an addition or change to a Will

Declaration of Trust

A Deed confirming on what terms joint owners own property


A person who relies upon another for financial support


An executor swearing an affidavit “disposes” of the facts. Therefore, the executor, the applicant and the deponent are one and the same in probate applications


Dissolution of Marriage (which may result in a need to change a Will)


The property and possessions of a deceased person

Estate Planning

The legal process by which Estates and Wills are structured to facilitate easy distribution and finalisation of one’s property and wishes at death


The act of signing and dating a Will and having it witnessed


A person named in a Will to carry out the specific directions contained in a Will

Family Provision

Financial provision made by way of Court Order for the proper maintenance of and support for a deceased person’s family or dependants from the deceased’s Estate


A person in a position of trust with respect to another’s property; a general term used to refer to Executor, Administrator, or Trustee

Fiduciary Duty

An obligation to act in the best interest of another party, e.g. a company’s board member has a fiduciary duty to the shareholders, a trustee has a fiduciary duty to the trust’s beneficiaries, and a solicitor has a fiduciary duty to a client

Grant of Probate

A Court Order which confirms that a Will is valid and that the Executors are entitled to deal with the deceased’s assets

Grant of Representation

A Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration


A person you name in your Will as the person to look after your children (if they are still minors) or any mentally impaired dependants, if they do not already have a guardian. You should obtain the consent of your chosen guardian first, before naming him or her in your Will


A person who inherits or is entitled by law or by the terms of a Will, to inherit the Estate of another person

Holographic Will

A Will written entirely by the testator with his own hand and not witnessed (attested)


The property passed on by a deceased person in accordance with inheritance laws

Intestate | Intestacy

Dying without leaving a Will: “Partial Intestate” – to die with only part of an Estate covered by a Will

Intestate Succession

The order of who inherits the property when someone dies without a Will

Joint Executors

Multiple parties named to administer an Estate share, the fiduciary duty to ensure the Estate is handled properly

Joint Owners

For example, property such as real estate, furniture, shares or money in the bank, jointly owned with another person or persons in one of two ways – either as a joint tenant or as a tenant in common

Joint Tenants | Tenancy

Two or more persons are specifically named in a document as joint tenants. Upon the death of a joint tenant, the surviving joint tenant or tenants automatically receive the deceased tenant’s interest by the right of survivorship


A gift of property left in a Will


A person named in a Will

Letters of Administration

A Court Order confirming who is entitled to deal with a deceased’s property if there is no valid Will

Living Will

A written document that states a person’s wishes regarding life-support or other medical treatment in certain circumstances, usually when death is imminent


In a divorce or separation, the money paid by one spouse to the other in order to fulfil the financial obligation that comes with marriage


A person who is not yet 18 years old

Movable and immovable property

The distinction can be complex and if there is any doubt you should consult a lawyer. However, “immovable” property includes land and buildings, whilst everything else can usually be regarded as movable

Personal Representative

A general term referring to a person or persons who perform acts associated with the administration of a deceased estate – either as an executor or administrator


A promised gift

Power of Attorney

An express written authority in a proper form signed and witnessed according to law, by which one person appoints another to act on his or her behalf


Official Court document proving that a Will is authentic or valid

Realty | Real Property

Land and interests in land, excluding leaseholds

Residue (or Residual Estate)

That portion of an Estate that is left over, after all, debts, expenses and bequests have been paid

Revocation | Revoke

When a Will no longer has any legal effect

Right of Survivorship

In a joint tenancy, the property automatically goes to the co-owners if one of the co-owners dies. A co-owner in a joint tenancy cannot give away his or her share of the property in a Will


Husband or wife


A term used to describe the body of law relating to the passing of property on the death of a person

Tenancy in Common

A type of joint ownership allowing a person to sell his | her share or leave it in a Will, without the consent of other owners. If a person dies without a Will, the share goes to that person’s heirs, not to the other owners

Tenants in Common

Two of more landowners whose interest in land is separate and distinct from one another

Testamentary Expenses

The expenses involved in obtaining a Grant of Probate of a will


Where there is Will

Testator | Testatrix

The author (male | female) of a valid Will


Assets that are held and controlled for the benefit of another, usually the beneficiary


A person who holds and controls property for the benefit of another


A legal declaration of how a person wishes his or her possessions to be disposed of after death

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