Learn terms used in wills and estates

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These terms apply to the will and estate of a deceased person.

  1. A to D

    Administration of the estate

    The representative of the estate settles and distributes the estate.


    A person appointed by the Supreme Court of Yukon to handle the estate of a person:

    • who dies without a will; or
    • whose will does not name an executor.

    The administrator is the personal representative of the estate. They have a trust and trustee relationship to the creditors and beneficiaries of the estate. Sometimes, a female administrator is referred to as an administratrix.

    Advance directive (also called a living will)

    An adult decides that if they become incapable of expressing their wishes, another person (called a proxy) can make decisions about their:

    • health care; and
    • end-of-life decisions.

    An advance directive is a part of an estate plan. This is a signed and dated legal document.

    Alternate executor

    A person appointed by a will to handle an estate in case the original executor is unable or unwilling to.


    The things that you own such as land, vehicles, artwork, and bank accounts.


    A person, or an institution such as a charity or a corporate body, who inherits property from an estate:

    • through a will; or
    • under the intestate rules of the Estate Administration Act or the Indian Act.

    A beneficiary is also the named person who receives the proceeds of:

    • an insurance policy; or
    • a retirement or pension plan.

    Bequest or devise

    A gift of a specific item or amount of money under a will.


    A formal supplement or an addition to a will. It modifies, adds, subtracts from, qualifies, alters, restrains or revokes provisions in a will. It must be prepared and followed in the same way as a will.

    Common law

    The Estate Administration Act defines common-law spouse as a person who:

    • is united to another person by a marriage that, although not a legal marriage, is valid by common law; or
    • has co-habitated with another person as a couple for a least 12 months immediately before the other person's death.


    Refers to a situation where someone depends on someone else for maintenance and support. The relationship of dependent persons to a deceased person is defined in the Estate Administration Act, the Indian Act and the Dependents Relief Act.

  2. E to H

    Enduring power of attorney

    An adult (called a donor) gives the power to act for them with respect to their property and finances to another person (the attorney). This power does not come to an end if the donor becomes mentally incapable of managing their own affairs. This is a signed and dated legal document, and it does not give power to make health or end-of-life decisions. For that, see “advanced directive”.

    Find out how to make an enduring power of attorney.


    All of the property owned (or interests held) by a person at the time of their death.

    Estate Administration Act (Revised Statutes of Yukon 2002 chapter 77)

    Yukon law that describes how estates of deceased people:

    • are administered; and
    • who inherits if a person leaves no will.

    Read the Estate Administration Act.

    Estate plan

    What happens to your estate when you die or if you become incapable. The plan can include:

    • your will;
    • insurance policies;
    • enduring powers of attorney; and
    • advance directives.


    A person appointed by a will to manage an estate. This includes:

    • arranging for the funeral;
    • paying all debts and expenses;
    • filing tax returns; and
    • transferring property to the beneficiaries.

    The executor is the personal representative of the estate and is trusted by the creditors and beneficiaries of the estate. Sometimes, a female executor is referred to as an executrix.


    Someone in a position of trust, confidence and responsibility for another person or persons. An executor has a fiduciary duty:

    • to act for the benefit of the beneficiaries of an estate;
    • to avoid conflict of interest; and
    • not to profit at the expense of a beneficiary.

    Grant of administration (also called letters of administration)

    The Supreme Court of Yukon grants the authority to a person to administer the estate of a person who died without:

    • a will; or
    • naming an executor in a will.

    This grant authorizes the administrator to administer the estate without further proof of their authority.

    Grant of administration with will annexed (also called letters of administration with will annexed)

    The Supreme Court of Yukon can create an order to name a person as an executor. This can happen if a person died with a will and:

    • they didn’t appoint an executor; or
    • the appointed executor is unable or unwilling to act.

    Grant of probate (also called letters of probate)

    An order of the Supreme Court of Yukon confirming that the:

    • will is valid; and
    • person named as the executor does not need to show further proof that they can administer the estate.


    A person appointed by the court to make decisions for someone who is not mentally capable of:

    • making their own decisions; or
    • managing their own affairs.

    Holograph will

    A will written entirely in the handwriting of the deceased and signed by them.

  3. I to L


    When a person dies without a will.


    The direct descendants of a person, including children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on.

    Joint tenancy

    A type of co-ownership of property by more than 1 person, when there is a “right of survivorship.” Each owner holds an equal interest in the entire property. On the death of an owner, their share or interest passes to the surviving owners.

    Letters of administration

    See “grant of administration.”

    Letters of administration with will annexed

    See “grant of administration with will annexed.”

    Letters of probate

    See “grant of probate.”

    Life interest

    Ownership of a property that only lasts as long as a person is alive. A person cannot include in their will a property that they have a life interest in.

    Living will

    See “advance directive.”

  4. M to P

    Mentally capable

    A person’s ability to make decisions that may have legal or other consequences. A capable adult understands information and appreciates the consequences of decisions.

    Passing accounts

    When a personal representative or a trustee of an estate brings an accounting to the Supreme Court of Yukon for review and approval. This is not necessary if all beneficiaries or other parties with rights in an estate agree to the accounting.

    Per capita (distribution)

    A beneficiary dies before the maker of the will dies. The beneficiary’s share is divided among the other beneficiaries named under the will.

    Per stirpes (distribution)

    A beneficiary dies before the maker of the will dies. The beneficiary’s share is transferred to their direct descendant(s) (issue).

    Personal representative

    A person with legal authority to administer an estate. The personal representative is:

    • the executor if appointed by a will; or
    • an administrator if appointed by the court when there is no valid will, or no executor was appointed in a valid will.


    Proving a will by filing the will and other necessary documents in the Supreme Court of Yukon. This establishes that the will:

    • meets all legal requirements; and
    • is the last will of the deceased.


    A general term used to mean everything owned by a person, such as:

    • land;
    • buildings;
    • money;
    • investments; and
    • movable items.

    Public Guardian and Trustee

    The Public Guardian and Trustee may apply to administer an estate if a person dies:

    • without a will; and
    • no competent or willing friend or relative applies to the Supreme Court of Yukon to act as the administrator.

    The Supreme Court of Yukon cannot order the Public Guardian and Trustee to act. The Public Guardian and Trustee decides whether or not they will handle an estate.

  5. Q to Z

    Residual estate (residue or remainder)

    The property remaining in the estate after:

    • debts and taxes have been paid; and
    • special bequests have been given to specific beneficiaries.

    Residuary beneficiaries (remainder)

    Those who receive the remains of the estate after debts and taxes are paid, and bequests made.

    Tenancy in common

    A type of co-ownership of property by more than 1 person. The deceased person’s share in the property is part of their estate. It can be transferred or given to a beneficiary:

    • in a will; or
    • by the laws of inheritance.


    A person who makes a will. Sometimes, a female testator is referred to as a testatrix.


    A person named in a will, often the executor, who holds property for another person. A trustee also manages:

    a child’s inheritance; or
    the inheritance of any person who will not receive their part of the estate for the period of time the will defines.


    A will is a written document setting out a person’s wishes about how to deal with their property after they’ve died. It can include any or all of the things that a person owns such as property, land, vehicles, artwork, bank accounts.


If you have questions about child lawyers or minor trusts, contact the Public Guardian and Trustee. 
In person: 1st floor, Andrew Philipsen Law Centre, 2134 – 2nd Avenue in Whitehorse. 
Email: publicguardianandtrustee@yukon.ca 
Phone: 867-667-5366, or toll free in the Yukon 1-800-661-0408, extension 5366