Some people get confused by the legal language used in describing Wills and Bequests. The following are brief definitions of the many words used:
An ADMINISTRATOR is someone who is appointed by law to settle your affairs if you die without leaving a Will, if your Will is not valid, or if the named Executor does not act.
ADMINISTRATION EXPENSES are those costs incurred in the administration of the estate or in the collection of the assets, payments of debts and distribution of property.
Assets are all the items you own – property, vehicles, bank accounts, shares, household goods, jewellery and so on. Together, these are known as your Estate.
A BENEFICIARY is someone who is to receive something from your Will.
A BEQUEST is a completed gift transfer, by Will, of personal property such as cash, securities, or other tangible property.
A CODICIL is a charge or an addition which you can make to your Will.
A DEFERRED GIFT is a gift that is made now, but is not actually received until sometime in the future, usually after your death.
A DIVORCE will revoke that portion of the Will in favour of your former spouse. It is important to consider whether you should make a new Will if you are divorced.
An ESTATE is the total of assets – (property, possessions and money) – that you leave when you die.
An EXECUTOR is someone you appoint in your Will to see that your wishes and instructions are carried out after your death.
A GUARDIAN is the person or institution you appoint who will take on the responsibility of raising your minor children or caring for someone for whom you are providing care or legal protection, should you die before they are in a position to care for themselves. A Guardian may also be appointed to take care of your own non-financial affairs if you are unable to act for yourself through illness or dementia.
INHERITANCE is the process by which your possessions are passed on to your family after your death.
INTESTATE OR INTESTACY means dying without making a valid Will.
A LEGACY is a gift left in a Will. There are three common kinds of legacies. A specific legacy which is a definite property or object; a pecuniary legacy which is a gift or a specific sum of money; and a residuary legacy which is a gift of money or assets left over when other legacies and expenses have been paid.
MARRIAGE will revoke any Will you have previously made. It is important to make a new Will when you marry. You can make a Will in anticipation of marriage.
PARTIAL INTESTACY is the name for a situation which arises when someone’s Will does not dispose of the whole of the estate.
PROBATE (from the word “to prove”) is the legal procedure to establish whether you left a valid Will. If not, an Administrator is appointed to distribute according to law.
RESIDUE is the amount of money left over when all the expenses and the specific legacies have been paid from your estate. Many people choose to leave the residue, or a share of it, to charity.
A TESTATOR (or TESTATRIX) is a person who has made a Will.
A TRUST is an arrangement you can make in your Will to administer part of your assets after your death, e.g. on behalf of your children if they are still minors.
A WILL is a written instrument by which a person disposes of his property on death but which may not be effective unless executed in accordance with correct legal procedures.