There’s a lot of legal terminology involved in settling and planning your estate. Here’s a glossary to help you stay informed.
Act With an Even Hand
An estate representative must act impartially and treat all beneficiaries equally as outlined by the Will.
An administrator (m)/administratrix (f) is appointed by the court to manage the estate when any of the following occur: - there is no Will;
- the Will does not name an executor;
- the executor has died and no replacement was named in the Will;
- the executor is unwilling/unable to manage the estate and there are no replacements named in the Will. They will take on the same duties as the executor. A Letter of Administration is used to provide proof of the administrator’s authority to act on behalf of the estate. See also: estate trustee and liquidator.
Advance Care Directive
Also known as a living Will. This is a legal document that helps your substitute decision maker and health care team understand your choices for resuscitation and other healthcare treatments.
This is a sworn declaration of a statement of fact. This is sworn in front of a commissioner of oaths or a notary.
This refers to all possessions owned by an individual or an organization.
This is a statement in the Will that confirms the witness was present when the testator signed the Will. It is also referred to as the testimonium clause.
This refers to any individual who is going to receive a benefit in the Will or through distribution of assets without a Will. This can include: money, property, benefits from a trust, proceeds from an insurance policy or investment.
The gifting of a specific piece of personal property in the Will.
This refers to any individual who is named a beneficiary on a specific account, policy, etc., this named beneficiary supersedes the named beneficiaries in the Will. These assets will not enter the estate but pass directly to that named beneficiary.
Clearance Certificate (form TX19)
Once all of the deceased’s taxes have been filed and all amounts are paid, the estate representative can request this certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to confirm all payments were made. None of the assets should be distributed before this certificate is received. The estate representative could be held personally responsible for amounts owed to the CRA by the deceased, estate, trust or corporation if assets are distributed before the certificate is received.
This is a legal document in which the testator can make additions or changes to the Will. It becomes part of the original Will and is treated the same. It has the same requirements as a Will to make it valid.
Conflicts of Interest
A situation where an estate representative is in a position to receive a personal benefit through their actions while in their role as estate representative.
A custodian is a person named in the Will to receive guardianship of minor children or to protect and maintain property or records.
Acronym for "date of birth."
Acronym for "date of death."
Death Certificate or Proof of Death Certificate
These are issued by each province through their vital statistics office. At minimum it will include: the person’s full name, date of death, place of death, sex, a registration number and date. If a cause of death is required, a Medical Certificate of Death, Medical Certificate or a Certified Copy of Death Registration with Cause of Death Information is required.
This refers to a person who relied on the deceased’s care and financial assistance.
This refers to a piece of real estate (real property) which is designated as a gift in the Will.
Any payments made by the estate representative from the assets of the estate.
Donor (also called Grantor) in relation to Power of Attorney
This is the term for the person who appoints another person as their power of attorney.
Enduring Power of Attorney (also called Continuing Power of Attorney)
The power of attorney retains their authority even if the donor/grantor becomes mentally infirm.
This refers to all of the assets, rights, interests in any property, and titles, as well as any liabilities, that existed at the time of death.
This term will be used to refer to either an executor, administrator, estate trustee, estate trustee without a will or liquidator.
In Ontario, this is the term used to refer to the executor or administrator of an estate.
Estate Trustee Without a Will
In Ontario, this is the term used to refer to the administrator of an estate where there was no Will.
Executor (m)/Executrix (f)
This is the individual(s) or trust company that is named in the Will to administer the estate.
Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC)/Possession and Acquisition License (PAL)
As of September 2, 2015, the FAC was replaced with the PAL. If the deceased has not made this replacement, it must be made before taking possession of an inherited firearm. More details can be found here: https://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/firearms
This is an individual appointed by the court to be legally responsible for the care of minors, property or finances. In Quebec, they are referred to as a tutor.
This is a handwritten Will which requires no witnesses. It must be entirely handwritten, signed and dated by the testator. This is not usually considered valid in Prince Edward Island. In Ontario, the Will must be dated on, or before, March 31, 1978.
This refers to when a person dies without leaving a Will and refers to the person who has died without a Will.
In the absence of a Will, each province has an act which sets out the hierarchy by which the next of kin will inherit.
Jointly and Severally
When two people are named to one specific legal role (ex. power of attorney or co-executors) these terms are used to explain that they may work jointly or independently. It means “together and separately”.
Letter of Indemnity
An agreement between the estate representative and typically a financial institution where the estate representative can access funds before Letters Probate is granted. The estate representative is personally liable to pay back the funds if they are not entitled to them after disbursements are made.
Letters Probate/Certificate of Probate/Letters Testamentary
Letters Probate formally recognizes a Will is valid and that an estate representative is entitled to deal with the estate. Making an application to the court for a grant of Letters Probate is typically referred to as probating the estate. It is a court-supervised process for administering an estate that validates the authority of the estate representative to act.
Letters of Administration
This is a document granted by the court that appoints an estate representative to manage an estate where there was no Will or the estate representative was not named or is unable/unwilling to act. See also: Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee Without a Will, Letters of Administration with Will Annexed.
In Quebec, this refers to someone who acts as the Administrator or Executor of an estate.
Memorandums and Directives
These can be lists or instructions on how the deceased wanted their personal items distributed after their death. If they are incorporated into the Will, they are legally binding. If they sit outside of the Will, they are morally, but not legally binding.
Notarial Certificate True Copy
This is a certificate or certifying mark placed on a document by a notary public which verifies that the document is a true copy of the original. This can also be referred to as a notarized copy of a document or certified true copy. Often lawyers will also be appointed as a notary public, but this is not always the case.
Notice of Assessment
This is a notice from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) which is issued after you’ve filed your income tax. This notice will indicate any amounts owing or refunds to be issued.
Passing of Accounts
Officially, this refers to the act of presenting the formal accounts of the estate to beneficiaries and the court. They are reviewed by the court and “passed” or not. While an estate representative is required to keep detailed records of all accounting activity related to the estate, a formal passing of accounts is not always necessary. There is often an informal presentation of the accounts to the beneficiaries instead. Timelines to complete the passing of accounts varies by state or province.
This refers to all the property of the estate, aside from real estate.
This refers to the executor(s) or administrator(s) of an estate.
This refers to the prearranging or preplanning of a funeral which allows an individual to make choices about the service and burial options and make payments ahead of time. This can help to ensure there aren’t as many expenses for the estate or decisions for others to make regarding the funeral arrangements.
A bond protects the beneficiaries and creditors of the estate if the estate representative does not properly administer the estate. A bond is an amount of money that is set by and posted with the court. It may be required with the probate application if: the deceased died without a will, no estate representative was named, or the estate representative is not a resident of Canada/Commonwealth country. This varies by province or state.
Proof in Common Form
A process to prove the validity of a Will. The estate representative will swear that the Will is authentic and request that probate be granted.
Proof in Solemn Form
This is a more complex process to prove the validity of a Will and is used when there is, or could be, dispute over the validity of the Will or its contents.
Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT)
When a minor or dependent adult are involved in an estate, the PGT must be contacted to ensure their care is properly addressed. They may be appointed to manage the property of a minor or dependent adult where no one is appointed to in the Will or by the court. The PGT may also administer an estate where there is no estate representative.
This refers to real estate, leased land, or right-of-way land.
This refers to a beneficiary who receives all or part of the “residue” of an estate.
A statement within a will that allows for any remaining and unlisted assets to be designated to a specific beneficiary or to the executor for further distribution.
The part of the estate that is left after all debts, expenses, bequests and other financial obligations have been paid.
Rights or Things Tax Return
This refers to amounts (rights or things) that were not paid to the deceased at the time of death, but would have been included in their income. This can come from employment or other sources. If you file a tax return for rights or things, you must report ALL rights or things on that return (except what is transferred to beneficiaries); you cannot split rights or things between the final tax return and the rights or things return.
Application for Transmission
This is a document that transfers the title of a piece of property to the estate representative so they can deal with the property on behalf of the estate. It is applied for through the Land Titles Office. This varies by province.
Testator (m)/Testatrix (f)
This is the term used to refer to a deceased individual who died with a valid Will.
This refers to a company or person that manages property, money, and/or investments according to instructions/trust agreement. This may or may not be the estate representative.
The appraisal of an object to determine its value.
A legal document that comes into effect upon death. The Will names an estate representative(s) and may stipulate the guardianship of minor children and dependents, details of funeral arrangements and disbursement of assets. It is important to note that many aspects of a Will can be contested including guardianship of dependents.
Wills and Estates Registry
This allows for a Will to be registered by the court as the confirmed last Will and testament of the deceased. It also records that the administration of the estate will be handled by the estate representative named in the Will.