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Some key legal words and what they mean

See below, “Who’s who: Executors and other key people”.

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

Bequest – Property (other than money) disposed of under a will.

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.

ExecutorSee below, “Who’s who: Executors and other key people”.

Intestate – describes the estate of someone who dies leaving no will or whose property is not effectively disposed of under a will.

The laws of intestacy – Laws that determine how, and among whom, any property is divided when someone dies intestate.

Legacy – Money or other property left by a will.

Letters of administration – A High Court order (also known as an “order to administer”) that vests intestate property in an administrator and gives that administrator power to manage an intestate estate.

Personal representative – A general term for the person who manages the deceased person’s estate, who will either be the “executor” (the person appointed to do this under a will) or the “administrator” (the person appointed by the courts to do this under “letters of administration” if there’s no will). For information about executors and administrators, see below, “Who’s who: Executors and other key people”.

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 – such a person used to be called a “testator” (male) or “testatrix” (female).

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Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

New Zealand Law Society



Making a will and estate administration

Dividing up relationship property.

Access pamphlets online or order hardcopies from the New Zealand Law Society.

Phone: (04) 472 7837
Email: pamphlets@lawsociety.org.nz

Ministry of Justice


This webpage provides some useful information and links on the more technical legal side of getting a copy of a will when a relative has died.

Māori Land Succession


This gives information on how Māori land is dealt with, including how land is dealt with after an owner has passed away.

Public Trust


Phone: 0800 371 471
The Public Trust gives information about things to consider when making a will, setting things up, choosing an executor and estate administration. Facilities are also available for making a will online. You can call them or visit their website to fill out an enquiry form.

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.

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