Definition of Terms
Administrator: the person who applies to and is appointed by the court to take charge of an estate, in accordance with the Estate Administration Act. This can occur when there is no valid will, or if there is a will and no executor is named or able to take charge of the estate.
Beneficiary: a person who, under the terms of the will, receives a benefit — a specific item or sum of money, a life interest in the assets of the estate or a share of the residue.
Bond: a bond insures the value of the estate.
Codicil: a document signed by the testator and two witnesses that changes the original terms of the will.
Estate: all assets/possessions left by a person after his or her death.
Executor: the person named in the will to take charge of disposing or distributing the estate according to the directions left by the testator. One of the primary duties of the executor is to apply, when necessary, for a Grant of Probate to allow for the transfer of assets from the estate to the beneficiaries.
Grant of Letters of Administration: the grant issued by the court officially naming someone, usually a spouse or relative, as the administrator of the estate.
Grant of Letters of Administration with Will Annexed: the grant issued by the court appointing an administrator, usually a beneficiary, when there is a valid will but no executor.
Grant of Letters Probate: official confirmation given by the court that the person named as executor is the proper person to settle the estate. Financial institutions, when they hold any of the estate’s assets, and ownership registries, like the Land Title and Survey Authority of BC or the Motor Vehicle Branch, will generally require this confirmation before allowing the transfer of assets.
Heir(s)-At-Law: the person who, by law, inherits the estate of a deceased person.
Intestate: when a person dies without leaving a will, or dies leaving a will that is considered invalid by the laws of British Columbia.
Life Interest: the interest on the assets of the estate, but not the assets themselves, over the lifetime of the beneficiary.
Personal Representative: the person, either an executor or an administrator, who is considered to represent the deceased in all matters concerning his or her estate.
Residue: the balance of the estate after all specific gifts have been distributed and all debts have been paid.
Right of Survivorship: the right of a surviving joint owner to total ownership of an asset after the other joint owner’s death.
Testator: the person who has made the will.
Will: a document, conforming to the requirements of British Columbia law, that contains directions for the disposal or distribution of a person’s assets after his or her death.