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Key words

Administrator – Someone who is appointed to manage the deceased’s estate, if the deceased did not have a will (see: “Administrators are appointed by the court”).

Assets – The property (including money, land, houses and chattels) that someone owns.

Bequest – Property (other than money) given to someone in a will.

Capacity, also called “Legal capacity” or “of sound mind” – You are considered to have capacity if you are able to:

  • understand information,
  • appreciate the nature and consequences of a situation,
  • use information rationally, and
  • communicate your choices to others.

S v Attorney-General [2017] NZHC 2629 at [777] Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988, s 5

Codicil – An additional or supplementary will made after the original will has been signed. The codicil doesn’t cancel the original will. It changes that will or adds to it.

Grant of administration – a general term that covers:

  • when the court grants probate for a will, and
  • when it appoints someone to manage the estate by granting “letters of administration” (when there’s no will).

Estate – Everything that a person owns or controls at the time of their death.

Executor – The person appointed in the deceased’s will to manage the estate (see: “Choosing an executor”).

Intestate – If you die without a will (or if your will doesn’t cover all of your property), you will be said to have died “intestate”.

The laws of intestacy – Laws that determine how property is divided, and who it is distributed to, if someone dies without a will.

Legacy – Money or other property left by a will.

Letters of administration – A High Court order (also known as an “order to administer”) that appoints someone an “administrator”.

Personal representative – A general term for the person who manages the deceased person’s estate – either the person appointed to do this under a will (the “executor”), or, if there’s no will, the person appointed by the courts to do this under “letters of administration” (the “administrator”).

Probate – A High Court order that establishes that a will is valid and gives the executor authority to deal with the estate.

Will-maker – A person who makes, changes, revokes or revives a will (sometimes used to be called a “testator” or “testatrix”).

Next Section | Making a will

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Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

New Zealand Law Society

The Law Society has helpful information on making a will and estate administration.

Website: www.lawsociety.org.nz/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/making-a-will-and-estate-administration

Consumer NZ

The Consumer NZ website contains good information about wills, including the legal requirements for making a will, and what it’s likely to cost to administer after a person dies.

Website:  www.consumer.org.nz/articles/wills

Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice provides useful information on how to obtain a copy of a will when a relative has died.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/courts/high-court/apply-for-probate-and-get-copy-of-will

Māori Land Succession

The Māori Land Court website provides information on how Māori land is dealt with, including how land is dealt with after an owner has passed away.

Website: www.maorilandcourt.govt.nz

Public Trust

The Public Trust is a provider of wills and estate administration services. Facilities are also available for making a will online. You can call them or visit their website to fill out an enquiry form.

Website: www.publictrust.co.nz/products-and-services/making-a-will
Phone: 0800 371 471

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