Wills and Probate Glossary

There are many terms that are used in relation to Wills and Probate, and here we explain some of these commonly used wills and probates terms in plain English.

Legal Glossary
    • Administrator

The person who deals with the estate of a person who has died intestate (without a Will).

    • Apportionment

The proportionate division of a deceased’s estate between certain beneficiaries.

    • Assets

Property, money and other belongings owned by the deceased.

    • Attorney

A person, typically a lawyer, but not always, who is appointed to act for another in business or legal matters on their behalf.

    • Attestation

Confirmation or verification. It is often used as a term when witnessing a signature.

    • Beneficiary

Anyone or any organisation that is entitled to a share of the estate of the deceased.

    • Bequest

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

    • Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

This is a tax on the profit made when selling an asset.

    • Chattels

Any movable personal property or belongings that is not used for business. Examples of personal chattels would be ornaments, jewellery, furniture, clothes and so on.

    • Codicil

An addition or change made to a Will, for example, to increase a cash legacy.

    • Common Law Spouse

There is no such thing as a common law spouse in law.

    • Court of Protection

The Court of Protection in English law is a superior court that has jurisdiction over the property, financial affairs and personal welfare of people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

    • Discretionary Trust

A trust where the trustee has the full power to decide when and to which beneficiaries are to receive their capital.

    • Domicile

Domicile is a concept of general law. Domicile is distinct from nationality or residence. Broadly speaking your domicile is the country where you have your permanent home, and you can only have one domicile at any given time.

    • Estate

All the possessions of the person who has died, including all property, cars, investments, money and other belongings.

    • Executors

The persons or organisations appointed in the Will to administer an estate.

    • Gift

A transfer from one person to another without fair compensation in return. A legacy left to others in a Will.

    • Grant of Probate

The document issued by the Probate Registry to the executors to authorise them to deal with the estate.

    • Grant of Representation

The grant is a legal document issued by a court which confirms that the executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets. This document must thus be obtained before the executors can start closing accounts and liquidating assets.

    • Guardian

The person appointed by a parent or a court to have parental responsibility for a child under the age of 18 years.

    • Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

This is the act that allows people to bring a claim for inadequate provision under the terms of a Will or intestacy. The act makes provision for empowering the court to make orders for provision for the spouse, former spouse, child, child of the family or dependant of that person.

    • Inheritance Tax (IHT)

The tax that is to be paid when the total estate of a person who has died is more than the current inheritance tax threshold.

    • 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 rules laid down in law governing intestacy.

    • Insolvency

When there is a shortfall of funds to meet all liabilities at the time they are due.

    • Joint Tenancy

Property that is owned by two or more people in equal shares. Joint tenants are usually husband and wife and in the event of the death of the first person, the share of the property they owned would pass automatically to the surviving owner and would do so outside the terms of any Will.

    • Last Will and Testament

A legal document that lays out the way a person wishes to have their estate distributed upon their death.

    • Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)

A Lasting Power of Attorney can relate to someone’s property and affairs or their personal welfare. Their purpose is to meet the needs of those who can see a time when they will not be able to look after their own personal, financial or business affairs. The LPA allows for appropriate arrangements for family members or trusted friends to be authorised to make decisions on their behalf.

    • Laws of Intestacy

The Laws of Intestacy dictate how an estate is distributed should a person die without leaving a legally valid Will.

    • Leasehold

A form of property tenure where a person buys the right to occupy land or a building for a given length of time. Ownership of the property will pass to the landlord when the lease comes to an end.

    • Legacy

A gift of money (usually a specific amount) left to someone in a Will.

    • Letter Of Intent

An appendix to a Will detailing specific wishes not covered by law. This would typically include preferred funeral arrangements.

    • Letters Of Administration

Letters of Administration are granted by a probate registry to appoint appropriate people to deal with a deceased person’s estate where property will pass under Intestacy Rules or where there are no executors living (and willing and able to act) having been validly appointed under the deceased’s Will.

    • Liabilities

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

    • Memorandum of Wishes

Where a gift in a Will is coupled with a (non-binding) wish that it is to be distributed in accordance with wishes set out separately elsewhere.

    • Minor

A person under the age of 18.

    • Next of Kin

The nearest blood relative of the deceased. When a person dies intestate the next of kin are the people entitled to the estate, in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy.

    • Office of the Public Guardian (OPG)

The Office of the Public Guardian is a government body that protects the private assets and supervises the financial affairs of people who lack mental capacity for making decisions. The OPG works closely with the Court of Protection.

    • Parental Responsibility

The rights and responsibilities that a parent has towards a child and their property

    • Pecuniary Legacy

A gift of a fixed sum of money.

    • Post Mortem

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

    • Potentially Exempt Transfer

A gift made during one’s lifetime that is exempt from Inheritance Tax if the donor lives for seven years after making the gift.

    • Power of Attorney

Authorisation to act on someone else’s behalf.

    • Predeceased

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

    • Probate

Probate is the official process 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 is genuine and valid.

    • Probate Registry

A court within the family division of the High Court, that deals with probate matters. The probate registry is responsible for making sure that the Will is valid and the applicant is entitled to handle the estate of the deceased.

    • Residuary Estate

What is left of the estate after all liabilities and expenses have been paid.

    • Revocation

The term used when the testator decides to legally cancel their Will completely and invalidate the previous Will.

    • Tenant for Life

Property that is owned by two or more people. Joint tenants are usually husband and wife and in the event of the death of one tenant, the other automatically becomes the owner of the whole property. In these situations it is not possible for a tenant to make a gift of their share of the property to someone else as it is not theirs to give.

    • Tenants in Common

Property that is owned jointly but each joint owner has a distinct share forming part of their estate on death which does not pass automatically to the surviving tenant.

    • Testamentary Expenses

The costs of obtaining the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration and of administering the estate.

    • Testator

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

    • Trust

An arrangement set up by Will or deed with the trustees being appointed and given money or assets to hold and manage on behalf of the 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 21. Trustees normally have powers to distribute monies and have full power to sell and invest. Trustees have duties to be loyal, prudent, impartial and to inform the beneficiaries of the trust.

    • Will

A legally binding set of instructions indicating how someone wishes to dispose of their assets upon their 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.

We hope this Wills and Probate glossary guide has been useful. If you want to find out more you can check this comprehensive Wills and Probate Glossary. Meantime, we hope this guide will help you create a Will.