Terminology Used in Will Estates

by M-Gillies


Under old common law, there used to be a separate writing disposing of real property (real estate) called a Testament, and a separate writing disposing of all other personal property (all other property) called a Will. Thus the archaic phrase "Last Will and Testament".

Ademption – Is the failure of a gift of personal property stated in a will due to the property no longer belonging to the testator.

Administrator – Is an appointed individual who administers an estate in an intestate succession.

Beneficiary – Is the person receiving a gift or benefitting from a trust.

Bequest – Is a testamentary gift of personal property other than money.

Codicil – Is an amendment to a will, or a slight modification which partially revokes an existing or earlier will.

Decedent – Is another term for the testate, the deceased.

Demonstrative legacy – Is a gift of a specific sum of money with a direction that it be paid out of a particular fund.

Descent – Is the succession of real property to beneficiaries named in the will.

Devise – Is the testamentary gift of real property.

Devisee – Is a beneficiary of real property by a will.

Distribution – Is the succession of personal property to beneficiaries named in the will.

Executor – Is the person named as administer of the estate.

Inheritor – Is a beneficiary named in the will.

Intestate – Is a person who has not created a will or who does not have a valid will at the time of their death.

Legacy – Is a testamentary gift of personal property, usually in the form of money.

Legatee – Is a beneficiary of personal property under a will.

Pour-over will – Is a testamentary device where property from the estate is transferred to the trustee of a trust.

Precatory memorandums – Is a document that expresses the wishes made by a testator on discretionary matters of the disbursement of the estate.

Probate – The legal process of settling the estate of a deceased person.

Residue of estate – Is the balance of a testators estate after all administrative expenses, debts, taxes and executor and court fees have been paid, which is available for distribution to the deceased’s heirs.

Self-proved will - This is when the testator and the witnesses sign the will twice, deeming the will legitimate to avoid having to go to probate court.

Specific legacy – Is a testamentary gift of a precisely identifiable object.

Testamentary trust – Is any trust that arises upon the death of a testator through the will.

Testate – Is the person who dies having created a will prior to their death.

Testator – A person who executes or signs a will, which is their own.

Testamentary capacity – Is the mental competency to execute a will at the time the will was signed and witnessed.

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