Glossary of terms

The language of planning for end of life and after a death often includes words you may not be familiar with.

This glossary helps explain what various legal terms that deal with end of life mean in plain English.

Advance Care Directive: A way of recording your decisions about any future medical intervention and treatment by doctors and health workers, in case you are unable to make or communicate your decisions at the time.

Assets:  Things you own such as money, real estate, shares, investments, bank accounts, cars, boats, jewellery, collections such as antiques, stamps etc.  

Attorney:  A person or organisation you appoint under a Power of Attorney to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf.

Beneficiaries:  People, charities and/or organisations who you decide will receive or benefit from your estate when you pass away.

Capacity:  A person's ability to understand facts about their choices, weigh up the consequences (the risks and benefits) of making choices, and communicate consistent choices. 

De facto relationship:  Where two people are not married, but are living with one another as partners, including same-sex couples.

Duress: Duress and undue influence occurs when someone is pressured by another person to write their will in a particular way to the point where they are not acting freely.

Enduring Guardian: A person you appoint to make health and lifestyle decisions on your behalf if you become unable to, due to injury, illness or disability.

Enduring Guardianship: A legal document that allows you to appoint an Enduring Guardian(s) to make health and lifestyle decisions on your behalf if you become unable to, due to injury, illness or disability.

Enduring Power of Attorney: A legal document that allows you to appoint a person(s) to manage financial and legal decisions on your behalf and continues even if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself.

Estate: All assets (things owned) and liabilities (things owed) of a person. For a deceased person, assets and liabilities are the person’s deceased estate.

Estate planning: Preparing to protect and transfer assets after you pass away in the most financially efficient and tax effective way.

Executor: A person or organisation who administers your estate (things you own and owe), within the terms of your will, after you pass away.

General Power of Attorney: A legal document that allows you to appoint a person(s) to manage financial and legal decisions on your behalf, only while you have the ability to make your own decisions.

Gift: The assets or benefits you leave to beneficiaries in your will.

Guardian: A person or organisation responsible for making health and lifestyle decisions on behalf of a person who is unable to make their own decisions. This can be someone you appoint or an appointment by a court or tribunal of either a person or the Public Guardian.

Intestate:  When a person dies without a valid will, they are said to have died intestate. In this situation, the law sets out how the estate is shared among relatives.

Letters of administration: A document provided by the court to confirm the appointment of an administrator. This is required in cases where:

  • a deceased estate has been left without a valid will 
  • the will has not appointed an executor
  • all the appointed executors are unable or unwilling to act in that capacity

Minor: A child under the age of 18.

Power of Attorney: A legal document that allows you to appoint a person(s) (referred to as attorneys) to manage financial and legal decisions on your behalf. A General Power of Attorney applies only while you have the ability to make your own decisions, whilst an Enduring Power of Attorney continues even if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself.

Probate: Official recognition from the Supreme Court that a will is legally valid and there is permission to administer the estate (the whole sum of things owned, and things owed of the deceased person).

Residual estate: Everything that remains of an estate after all debts, funeral and testamentary expenses and specific and monetary gifts are provided for.

Testamentary capacity: If a person has the mental ability to make or update a valid will.

Testator: The person who made their will.

Trust: A financial arrangement where a person or organisation (the trustee) is under an obligation to hold property (real estate and/or money) for the benefit of other persons (the beneficiaries).

Trustee: A person or organisation administering a trust on behalf of the person who created it. A trustee manages the assets as instructed by the terms of the trust.

Will: A legal document that clearly sets out your wishes for the distribution of your estate after you pass away.