Last updated 15 August 2016

This area of law is more easily understood if the meanings of commonly used words and phrases are clear:

  • beneficiary—a person or organisation entitled to receive a benefit or gift from a deceased person’s estate
  • codicil—a document executed by a person who had previously made a will to change, delete or revoke provisions contained in the will. A codicil must conform with the formalities of a valid will
  • dying intestate—when a person dies without leaving a will. Their estate is distributed to their spouse and/or amongst their next of kin as set out in the Succession Act 1981 (Qld) (Succession Act). Such a person is said to have died intestate because they died without a valid will
  • dying testate—when a person dies leaving a valid will. That person’s property is distributed according to the wishes expressed in the will. Such a person is said to have died testate because they died with a valid will
  • estate—the property owned by a person at the time of death
  • letters of administration—the document by which the court appoints a person to act as administrator of a deceased estate when there is no will of the deceased or no executor willing and able to apply for a grant
  • partially intestate—when a person dies leaving a valid will, but the will fails to dispose of all of the estate, a person is said to have died intestate. For example, if a person leaves their home to their partner and the proceeds of their bank account to their two children in equal shares, but one of those children dies before the testator (without leaving children), a partial intestacy would arise in relation to one half of the bank account, unless the will explained what was to happen if one of the beneficiaries died before the testator
  • personal representative—a person who is responsible for the administration of a deceased estate, including the responsibility for the collection and distribution of the deceased’s assets. A personal representative appointed by a will is known as an executor. If the will does not appoint a personal representative, or if no will is written, or if the personal representative is someone other than the executor named in the will, the personal representative is called an administrator
  • probate—the document by which the court recognises the authority of an executor to act under a will. A grant of probate amounts to an official recognition by the court of the right of personal representatives to administer the estate of a deceased
  • spouse—a husband or wife, a person in a civil partnership or a de facto partner (including same-sex partners) as defined in s 32DA of the Acts Interpretation Act 1954 (Qld) and s 5AA of the Succession Act
  • testator—a man or a woman who makes a will. The term testatrix can be used to describe a woman who makes a will.