Terms explained

Here are some terms you might come across - and their plain English meanings. If there's anything else you'd like explained, please get in touch. We'll be happy to help.

Administrator/s

The person or organisation who administer an estate. If the Will names executors, they will do this. If not, the court can appoint administrator/s.

Advisory trustee

Usually appointed to provide advice to the executors and trustees. An advisory trustee is not a legal trustee, but the trustees may rely on this advice.

Affidavit

A sworn statement that is to be filed in court. The person making the affidavit must swear on the Bible, or another holy book. If you prefer, you can sign an affirmation which means you don't have to swear on the Bible. When applying for probate or Letters of Administration, the executor or administrator must complete an affidavit (or affirmation) to say they will administer the estate in accordance with the law. An affidavit, or affirmation, must be witnessed by a Justice of the Peace officer, lawyer or court official.

Beneficiary

Any person, organisation, trust or charity who will benefit under the Will.

Bequest

A gift in a Will (usually, but not always, a gift of a specific item or items).

Distribution

Payment or transfer of assets from an estate to a beneficiary.

Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA)

Under an EPA another person is appointed to act on your behalf. This power can apply to your personal property, and/or your personal care and welfare. A property EPA can either be effective immediately if it is signed, for a specific time or only if you lose mental competence (the choice is yours). Your EPA is not effective after you have died.

Estate

Everything you own at the time of your death which is able to be disposed of by your Will. Jointly owned assets usually pass automatically to the other joint owner on your death and don't form part of your estate.

Executor and/or Trustee

The person or organisation responsible for carrying out your last wishes and paying your beneficiaries.

Grant of administration

The court's approval giving the executor the right to deal with the estate. The most common form of grant of administration is probate. Where there is no Will, the grant of administration is called 'Letters of Administration'. If there is a Will, but no executor, then the grant is called 'Letters of Administration.

Guardian

Someone who will look after a child's welfare when their parents can't. Guardianship ends at the age of 18. You can name a guardian for your children in your Will - that's called a 'testamentary guardian'.

Intestate

If someone dies without leaving a valid Will, he or she is said to 'die intestate'.

Legacy

A gift in a Will (often, but not always, a gift of money).

Letters of Administration

An order of the High Court appointing an administrator to administer the estate. Letters of Administration are required if someone has died without a Will (intestate). If the deceased left a Will but the named executor/s cannot or will not administer the estate, the High Court can appoint an administrator or administrators.

Letters of wishes

A written summary of goals and objectives for your executors and trustees. It can also be known as a 'Memorandum of Wishes' or a 'Note for Guidance for Trustees'.

Power of Attorney

A document which names a person or organisation that may sign documents or make decisions on your behalf. A simple power of attorney is canceled if you are no longer mentally competent but an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) remains in force if you become mentally incapacitated.

Probabte

A document issued by the court which certifies a Will's validity and confirms the appointment of an executor to administer the estate of the deceased.

Resealing

If the estate includes assets in another Commonwealth country, the New Zealand probate or letters of administration can easily be resealed by the court in that country and this gives authority to deal with those assets. A whole new grant of probate is required in other countries such as the USA.

Testamentary

Anything relating to or covered by a Will. Your testamentary intentions are what you intend to achieve by signing your Will.

Will

A legal document that specifies how you want your personal assets to be distributed and administered after your death.