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Glossary

Administrator
A person appointed by the court to deal with an estate because no will was left or no executor was named in the will, or because the sole executor has died or renounced probate.
Advance directive
A written document that sets out a person's wishes about their future medical treatment if they lose the mental capacity to make the decisions themselves. Unlike an enduring guardianship appointment, an advance directive is not legally binding.
Affidavit
A written statement sworn on oath or affirmed before a person with authority to administer it. The person in whose name the document is sworn is the deponent. Affidavits must contain only facts that the deponent can prove. Affidavits are generally required in court proceedings in place of statutory declarations.
Attestation clause
A witnessing clause. The attestation clause states that the witnesses saw the will-maker sign and that they signed in the presence of the will-maker and each other.
Beneficiary
A person who receives all or part of a deceased person's estate.
Codicil
An addition or amendment to a will that is written on a separate document.
Coroner
A magistrate or senior clerk of the court who investigates deaths that are sudden or unexpected, or where the cause is unknown. The coroner may hold an inquest to determine the manner and cause of death, and whether there is a prima facie case that a person has committed an offence for which they may be tried in court.
Creditor
A person to whom a debt is owing.
De facto relationship
The relationship between two adults living together as a couple but not married to each other or related by family.
Destitute funeral
A funeral, arranged by the state, of a person without assets, whose next of kin are not available, or are unable or unwilling to make arrangements for a funeral.
Embalm
To preserve a body by chemical means.
Enduring guardianship
A legal appointment under the Guardianship Act in which a person (the appointor) gives one or more people authority to make specific decisions about the appointor's personal affairs, health care or lifestyle should the appointor lose the mental capacity to make such decisions.
Estate
Assets that belonged to the deceased.
Euthanasia
The practice of deliberately and quickly ending a person's life either by some act (active euthanasia) or by withholding or withdrawing treatment (passive euthanasia).
Executor
A person appointed in a will to carry out the provisions of the will.
Ex-nuptial child
A child born to parents who are not married to each other.
Grant of probate
see probate.
Inquest
A hearing held by a coroner into the cause and circumstances of someone's death.
Intestacy rules
The rules that are used to decide where an estate will go when no will has been made, or where the will does not dispose of all of the estate. In NSW, these are set out in Chapter 4 of the Succession Act2006.
Intestate
Having died without leaving a will.
Joint tenancy
A form of co-ownership where property is owned by more than one person. In joint tenancy, when one co-owner dies, the property automatically passes to the other co-owner(s) regardless of what the will says. This is the favoured type of ownership for couples. Compare tenancy in common.
Legacy
A gift of personal property.
Legatee
A person who benefits from a legacy.
Letters of administration
Written authority from the court allowing a person to act as administrator of an estate where no will has been left.
Letters of administration with the will annexed
Written authority from the court allowing a person to act as administrator of an estate where a will was left but no executor was appointed, or the sole executor died before the will-maker or renounced probate.
Living will
see advance directive and enduring guardianship.
Morgue
The place where a body is taken and kept until a coroner gives permission for burial or cremation.
NSW Trustee and Guardian
A government organisation, set up under the NSW Trustee and Guardian Act 2009, which administers estates of deceased people who have made a will with the NSW Trustee and Guardian, estates where no will was left, and estates where the executor has renounced responsibility. In the past these duties were administered by the Public Trustee NSW.
Post-mortem
A medical examination of a body after death. It usually involves a doctor examining the body internally and externally. A post-mortem is sometimes called an autopsy.
Power of attorney
A legal document that gives one or more people the power to act on behalf of another in financial or legal matters.
Prima facie
'on the face of it'. Prima facie evidence proves a fact or allegation if no other evidence is produced to the contrary.
Probate
A court order by the Supreme Court confirming the validity of a will. It gives the executor permission to deal with the estate.
Public Trustee NSW
See NSW Trustee and Guardian
Statutory order
The order, according to law, in which estates are distributed when there is no will or a will which does not dispose of all the deceased's assets. See intestacy rules.
Tenancy in common
A form of co-ownership where property is held in common with others but each has a separate share. The share of a deceased person passes to their beneficiaries and not to surviving co-owners (compare joint tenancy).
Testamentary disposition
A valid will or other document approved by the court, stating how property is to be passed on.
Testate
Having died and left a will.
Testator
A person who has died and left a will.
Trustee
A person who holds property in trust for another person.