What exactly does the word property mean in a will?

I wonder if the word property in a will refers to something different than the word estate. My aunt's will talks about leaving property to some people, and leaving the residue of the estate to others.

Mina

Mina

Powell River, BC

There is a significant difference between the meaning of the words property and estate in a will.

When a person dies, their estate is made up of every asset and debt they owned by themselves. (Generally speaking, assets owned jointly with another person do not fall into the estate. They go directly to the other joint owner, under a legal principle called the right of survivorship.) 

A deceased person's assets are made up of two types of property: real property and personal property. Real property is land and any buildings sitting on the land. Personal property is everything else, such as household belongings, cars, bank accounts, RRSPs, other investments, and so on.

In your question, you also refer to the residue of the estate. 

In their will, a will-maker might make some specific gifts. For example, they may give a fixed sum of money to a grandchild. Or leave a piece of artwork to someone. They may make a charitable donation as well. When the executor settles the estate, they distribute those specific gifts. They also pay the funeral costs, any debts the deceased left, and any taxes the estate owes to the government. What is left in the estate after those gifts and payments are made is the residue of the estate.

There is always a residue in an estate. That is partly because when a person makes a will, they can't predict the size of their estate at the time of their death. As a result, most will-makers gift the residue of the estate by way of percentage. That way, every person they want to benefit will get something, regardless of the size of the estate residue.

Jack Micner

Jack Micner

Spry Hawkins Micner 
  • Reviewed in April 2021
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada

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