Glossary

Estate Planning Terminology From A to Z

 

Affidavit:

A legal document with facts you swear or affirm are true.

Affidavit of Execution:

An affidavit that a witness to a Will execution signs to confirm that they were present when the testator signed their Will.

Age of Majority:

The legally recognized age when people become adults, and are held legally responsible for their actions. This is also the age when the legal control and responsibility that a guardian has towards a child ends. Before this age, people are considered minors.

The age of majority in Canada is either 18 or 19, depending on where the province or territory. In Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, the age of majority is 18. In British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, and Yukon, and age is 19.

Asset:

Anything of value, tangible or intangible, that the testator owns. Assets can include cash, bank accounts, real estate property, cars, stocks, investments, and even digital assets like electronic photos and bitcoin.

Attorney:

In the context of Powers of Attorney, this is someone who makes decisions for you if you’re no longer able to do so yourself. An attorney for personal care makes decisions for your personal life, health care, and housing. An attorney for property makes decisions about your financial affairs, like managing your investments, paying your bills, and collecting debts owed to you.

Beneficiary:

In the context of receiving assets in a Will, a beneficiary is someone who gets assets from your Will when you pass away. In the context of a trust, a beneficiary is the person a trust is created for.

Commissioner for taking Affidavits: A government-appointed person who you swear/affirm your Affidavit with, who then signs the document to confirm that they administered the oath and saw you sign the Affidavit.

Contest:

A formal challenge to the validity of a Will. The objection can be to a part of the Will or the entire Will.

Digital asset:

Any asset that’s stored digitally. This can include social media accounts, emails, websites, digitally stored photos, files, music, and videos, and digital currency such as bitcoins.

Enduring Power of Attorney:

See Power of Attorney for Property.

Executor:

A person you choose to carry out the wishes in your Will. If you appoint more than one executor, they are called co-executors.

Guardian:

A person who has the legal responsibility to take care of a minor. If you name a guardian in your Will, they will care for your children if you die before your children reach the age of majority. If you appoint more than one guardian, they are called co-guardians. You can also appoint guardians for adults with disabilities.

In Ontario, a guardian appointed by your Will assumes that legal status for 90 days only. They must apply to the court to become the permanent guardian before the 90 days are over.

Holographic Will:

A Will that’s entirely handwritten by the testator. This type of Will can be legally binding even without being witnessed. Also called a Holograph Will.

Intestate:

Dying without a valid Will. If you die intestate, your assets will be distributed according to the default rules of the province where you live. The opposite of this (dying with a Will) is called dying testate.

Last Will and Testament:

A legal document that tells people how you want your assets distributed, who will take care of your minor children (their guardian), and who will carry out your final wishes (your executor).

Minor:

Someone who hasn’t reached the age of majority.

Personal Directive:

See Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

Power of Attorney (POA):

A legal document that gives someone you appoint (your attorney) the power to make decisions on your behalf.

Power of Attorney for Personal Care:

A Power of Attorney that gives grants your attorney the power to make personal and healthcare decisions for you if you are incapable of making decisions for yourself.

Power of Attorney for Property:

A Power of Attorney that grants your attorney the power to make financial decisions for you if you are incapable of making them for yourself.

Representation Agreement:

See Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

Testate:

Dying with a valid Will. The opposite of this is intestate.

Testator:

The person that creates the Will , and for whom it is for.

Trust:

A relationship where one person (the trustee) holds assets for the benefit of another person (the beneficiary). This setup can be useful in many circumstances, like when a testator leaves money to their minor child. The money can be held in a trust that is managed by the trustee until the child is old enough to handle the money by themselves.

Trustee:

When a trust is set up, its creator/grantor appoints the trustee as the person who manages money/assets for the best interests of someone else (the beneficiary).

Will:

See definition for Last Will and Testament.

Witness:

Someone who watches you sign your Will or Power of Attorney, and then signs the Will themselves to confirm that they saw you sign your Will. If you’re signing a Will, your Witnesses can’t be a beneficiary under the Will or any beneficiary’s spouse. It’s also best if they’re not your beneficiary’s dependent—in other words, that they don’t have anything to gain from you signing your Will. If your witness is a beneficiary or a beneficiary’s spouse, your Will is still valid, but your witness would forfeit anything they were entitled to under your Will.