Common Terms

A Will is a document that contains instructions on how a Will maker wants his or her property to be distributed after he or she has died.

A person who makes a Will is called the Testator (if male) and the Testatrix (if female). 

 The Will appoints an Executor.  The Executor is the person who represents the Testator after the Testator’s death and does everything necessary to carry out the instructions set out in the Will.  In carrying out the instructions the Executor is referred to as administering the Estate.

The person or persons who the Will says are to receive the assets are referred to as Beneficiaries.

In some (but not all) cases, the Executor needs to obtain Probate of the Will.  This is usually the case where the Testator had assets of substantial value when he or she died.  After obtaining Probate the Executor will be recognised at law as the person who has the right to deal with the assets after the Testator’s death.  An Executor gets probate by making an Application to the Supreme Court.  The Court's approval is sought to recognise that the Will is valid and that it is the last one made.  The document is known as a Grant of Probate. That approval is known as Probate.

When a Will is signed by the Testator (and the appropriate witnesses) it is known as having been executed.

When a Testator cancels a Will he or she is known as having revoked it.  All Wills contain a sentence cancelling previous Wills (i.e. "I revoke all former testamentary acts.")

A person who dies without making a Will is said to have died intestate.

When a will does not dispose of the whole of the deceased’s assets, the testator is said to have died partially intestate.

The rules of intestacy refer to the State laws which govern the chain of those who will inherit the assets of the deceased in the absence of a will.

An estate consists of all the assets a person leaves behind when they die.

Administration is the process of collecting assets, paying the debts and distributing the balance of a deceased’s estate according to the will of the deceased.  If there is no will, or the will does not dispose of the deceased’s estate in its entirety, the undisposed estate will be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy.

An Administrator is a person appointed by the court to administer the estate where there is no will.

The administrator acts under a court order which is referred to as the grant of letters of administration.  The grant of letters of administration is the official recognition that an administrator has the right to administer the deceased’s estate according to the law.

Letters of administration with the will annexed is a grant by the court appointing an administrator when there is a will but no executor or where the executor does not or cannot act.

A Personal Representative is either an Executor appointed by the will as the deceased’s chosen representative or an Administrator appointed by the Court.

A Grant of Representation is a certificate issued under seal by the court appointing an administrator or confirming the rights of an executor to administer the estate of a deceased person and vesting title to assets in the administrator or executor.