• Andy was appointed as executor of his father’s Will. He had heard of an Executor before but didn’t know what he was supposed to do, or where to start.

If you are appointed as Executor of a Will or are to receive some benefit under a Will, then the first step in understanding your rights and obligations is to make sense of some of the legal terminology referred to. The following serves as a basic guide to those words and phrases often found in Wills and the administration of estates…

  • Administrator: the person appointed when a person dies with no Will, or with a Will that has an invalid Executor clause or the appointment of the named Executor in the Will fails for some reason.
  • Beneficiary: a person who receives some benefit under a Will. Usually the benefit will be monetary, a gift of a personal item or an interest in property.
  • Estate:  the total sum of the deceased’s assets or interest in assets minus their liabilities. The estate is dealt with by the Executor, who pays the funeral expenses and debts of the deceased, as well as making distributions to the deceased’s beneficiaries.
  • Executor: the person nominated by the deceased in their Will to administer their property and carry out their wishes.  The Executor holds the assets of the estate on trust for the beneficiaries.
  • Guardian: the person nominated by the will-maker to make decisions about their children at the will-maker’s death.
  • Income beneficiary (or a life tenant/life interest beneficiary): a person who receives the benefit of use of an asset or income from an asset, usually in the form of property, during their lifetime. The interest usually comes to an end at the life tenant’s death, but it can be earlier (e.g. upon remarriage). The asset then reverts back to whoever has been nominated in the Will to receive the asset.
  • Indemnity: an agreement to meet the costs of a loss suffered. A common example is where the assets in an estate are distributed to the beneficiaries within six months of Probate being granted. The beneficiaries sign a deed of indemnity agreeing to protect the Executor from any claims made against the estate within this six month timeframe.
  • Legacy or Bequest:  a gift made by a Will, being generally money or a personal item(s).
  • Legatee: the person to whom the legacy is gifted.
  • Letters of Administration: the document the court issues upon appointing the Administrator of an Estate where the person has died without a Will.
  • Letters of Administration with Will annexed: may be granted if there is a Will but the Executor named has died or the Executor clause is for some other reason invalid.
  • Life interest:  the right to the use of and/or benefit from an asset during one’s lifetime.
  • Probate: a grant by the Court that validates the appointment of the named Executor in the Will, enabling the Executor to deal with the deceased’s assets.
  • Residue/Residuary estate: what is left over in the estate of the deceased after the funeral costs, debts, estate costs, and gifts have been attended to.
  • Residuary beneficiary: the person(s) who receives what is left in the estate after gifts have been distributed and estate debts and costs paid.
  • Testator: the Will-maker/the deceased.
  • Trustee: the Executor. Upon the grant of Probate, the Executor becomes a trustee, holding the assets on trust for the beneficiaries.

We hope that the above list is of assistance.  For help with your Will or in administering an Estate please contact us.


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