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Wills & Probate Glossary of Terms



Term

Definition

Administration

Managing the affairs of the deceased. This involves establishing, collecting and distributing the assets of the estate as laid out in the Will or, where there is no Will, according to the intestacy rules.

Administration Period

The time taken from the date of death to the completion of the administration of the Estate.

Administrator

Someone appointed by court to deal with an estate when there is no valid Will, the Will does not name executors or the named executors are not able and willing to act.

Affidavit

A written statement, confirmed by oath, for use as evidence in court.

Attorney

An individual who is given the power to take decisions on someone else's behalf under a lasting power of attorney.

Attestation

Witnessing a signature.

Asset

Property, money or belongings owned by the deceased. When someone dies, the assets they leave are their "estate".

Beneficiary

A person (or organisation) who has been left something in a Will or trust.

Bequest

Any gift left in a Will that is not land or buildings.

Capital Taxes Office

The Inland Revenue Department that deals with all aspects of Inheritance Tax.

Capital Gains Tax

Often referred to as CGT it is a tax on the profit made when selling an asset.

Chattels

Any moveable personal property or belongings not used for business.

Civil Partnership

An officially registered civil partnership between two same-sex partners gives the civil partners the same rights as a married couple.

Codicil

An addition or change made to a Will. It has to be signed and witnessed in the same way as a Will. A codicil may be needed, for example, to increase a cash legacy, change a guardian or executor named in a Will, or to add another beneficiary. Codicils should only be used to perform minor changes to the existing Will. If more complicated changes are needed it is advisable to make an entirely new Will.

Contingent Legacy

A gift with a condition attached for example a gift conditional on the beneficiary reaching a certain age.

Coroner

An official (usually a lawyer or a doctor) who is responsible for investigating an unexplained or suspicious death.

Court of Protection

A specialist court that deals with applications for deputyships and other questions relating to people who may lack the capacity to make their own decisions.

Crown

Where your estate goes if you have no next of kin and did not make a Will.

Deceased

The person who has died.

Deed of Variation

A Deed of Variation can be used by beneficiaries to redirect inheritance entitlements in a Will or intestacy for tax purposes within two years of the date of death. The most common reason for drafting a Deed of Variation is to reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable from the deceased's estate.

Devise

A gift of leasehold or freehold property stated in the Will.

Disbursement

A payment made to a third party.

Donee

The person who receives the gift.

Donor

The person leaving the gift or the person who makes a Lasting Power of Attorney.


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Enduring Power of Attorney

A type of Power of Attorney used until October 2007 when Lasting Powers of Attorney were introduced. Existing Enduring Powers of Attorney are still valid but new ones cannot be drawn up.

Estate

The property, money and possessions of the deceased person.

Estate Accounts

Accounts of the financial transactions recorded during the Administration Period.

Excepted Estate

An estate which falls below the Inheritance Tax threshold and is therefore not taxable.

Executor

The person appointed in a Will or codicil to administer an estate.

Grant of Letters of Administration

The legal document issued by the Probate Registry appointing an administrator to deal with an estate. This is issued when there is a Will but no named executor, where the executors are unable to apply, where they do not wish to be involved in dealing with the estate, or where the deceased has not made a Will or any Will that the deceased has made is not valid.

Grant of Probate

The official court document that confirms the executors' legal authority under a Will to deal with an estate.

Grant of Representation

An order from a court authorising a person to deal with the estate of the deceased when no Will is in place.

Guardian

The person chosen by the testator to take legal responsibility for their children in the event of their death.

Inheritance Tax

Often referred to as IHT, it is the tax which is payable on the deceased's estate where the estate exceeds the threshold.

Inheritance Tax Threshold

The amount allowed before tax is payable.

Inquest

A public enquiry held by a coroner into the circumstances surrounding a death.

Insolvency

When there is a shortfall of funds to meet all liabilities.

Deed of Variation

A document which varies a Will or the provisions of intestacy after a person has died.

Intestacy

The name for the situation which arises when someone dies without having made a legally valid Will. Their estate is then distributed according to the laws governing intestacy. To understand this a little more, view Our Guide to Intestacy.

Issue

All the direct descendants of a person.

Intestate

A person dies with no legally valid Will.


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Lapse

When a beneficiary dies before the testator.

Lasting Power of Attorney

A legal document in which the donor gives the attorney the power to make decisions on their behalf, either in relation to property and financial affairs or health and welfare.

Last Will and Testament

A legal document that lays out the way a person wishes to have their estate distributed upon death. It can also contain their wishes for their burial/cremation.

Laws of Intestacy

The Intestacy Laws dictate how your estate will be distributed should you die without leaving a legally valid Will. See our diagram to determine who will receive your property and possessions should you die intestate.

Legacy

A gift left to someone in a Will.

Letters of Administration

The official court documents that confirm the appointment of someone to act as the administrator for an estate.

Liabilities

The debts that need to be settled by the estate following the death of the deceased.

Life Interest

The right to enjoy for life either money or property which will eventually revert to the original estate.

Living Will

A Living Will usually covers specific directives as to the course of treatment that is to be taken by caregivers. Living Wills cannot necessarily be enforced by law.

Minor

A person under the age of 18.

Moveable Property

Any property that is not immovable e.g. personal chattels.

Next of Kin

The nearest blood relative of the deceased.

Nil Rate Band Allowance

The amount that can be passed to beneficiaries without paying Inheritance Tax.

Nominated Property

Assets that are given to a beneficiary outside of a Will or estate.

Oath

A pledge to tell the truth often calling upon God as a witness.

Office of the Public Guardian

Deals with the registration of lasting powers of attorney (and enduring powers of attorney) and the supervision of deputies.

Pecuniary Legacy

A gift of money.

Personal Chattels

Any personal and domestic items owned by a testator.

Personal Representative

A person entitled to deal with the deceased's estate.

Post Mortem

A medical examination of the body to determine the cause of death.

Power of Attorney

Authorisation to act on someone else's behalf.

Power Reserved

Where a named executor on the Will agrees not to act but reserves the right to do so at a later date.

Predeceased

Someone who dies before the person who has made the Will.

Probate

An official form that gives the executors of a Will the right to deal with the deceased's assets and property. It acts as proof that the executors have the authority they need to handle the estate of the deceased person. This legal procedure must be undertaken to establish that a Will and codicil are genuine and valid.

Probate Registry

A court within the family division of the High Court. Responsible for making sure that the Will is valid and the applicant is entitled to handle the estate of the deceased.

Proving the Will

Making the application for probate to the Probate Registry.


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Realisation

Converting estate assets into cash.

Register Office

When someone dies, their death must be registered with the Register Office, normally within five days.

Registrar

The person who registers the death. Every death must be registered by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Renouncing Probate

Where a named executor in a Will signs a legal document giving up his right to prove the will.

Residuary Beneficiary

Any person entitled to receive the whole or a share of any residue of the estate under the terms of the Will or on intestacy.

Residuary Estate

What is left of the estate after all liabilities, expenses and legacies have been paid - also known as Residue.

Residue

What is left after the money legacies, specific gifts, funeral expenses, Inheritance Tax and all other expenses.

Revocation

When the testator decides to change their Will completely and invalidates the previous one.

Rules of Intestacy

The rules that set out who inherits if someone dies without leaving a valid Will.

Satisfaction

Settling a debt or obligation.

Settlor

A person who has set up a trust.

Severance

The action of splitting the ownership of a property. Usually done so that joint tenants can become tenants in common and each leave their share of the property to someone other than the other tenant.

Testate

Dying leaving a Will.

Testator

The person who sets out his wishes and requests as to how their estate should be divided in the form of a Will.

Testatrix

A female testator.

Trust

An arrangement set up by Will or deed with Trustees being appointed and given money or assets to hold and manage for defined beneficiaries.

Trustee

Someone who is given the legal responsibility to hold any assets until nominated beneficiaries meet certain criteria set out in the deceased's Will e.g. until a beneficiary reaches the age of 18. Trustees normally have powers to distribute monies and have full power to sell and invest.

Will

A form of instructions indicating how someone wishes to dispose of their assets on death.

Witnesses

The persons who must be present to see the testator sign the Will. They must also sign the Will themselves and should not be beneficiaries of the Will.

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