Legal Terminology Explained

Here are some of the terms you’ll encounter, when making a Will, discussing Estate Planning or preparing for probate.

For obvious reasons, it can’t be a complete list - so don’t hesitate to ask us, if you want more advice.

Administrator - The person, normally the next of kin, who handles the financial affairs of the deceased where a Will has not been made.

Asset - Anything of value that you own.

Attestation - The correct signing and witnessing of the Will. The Will includes an Attestation clause that is signed by its owner.

Attorney / Attorneys - The person or people appointed in a Lasting Power of Attorney document to manage someone’s financial and welfare issues, when they are still alive but unable to manage by themselves.

Beneficiary / Beneficiaries - The person or people who will receive money or other benefits from a Will.

Bequest - A gift left to a person, organisation or charity in a Will.

Children - Biological children or children adopted by the testator or settlor, but not stepchildren or a child adopted by someone else.

Deed - A legal document that must be witnessed.

Deed of Gift - The transfer of the property, or share of property, from one person to another. Sometimes the husband, wife or one civil partner will own the whole of the property but the owner wants it to be owned as Tenants in Common (see below), one partner gifts a share to the other.

Donor - The owner of the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

Estate - The value of your assets when you die, less any debts or liabilities.

Executor/Executrix (male/female) - The person, people or organisation (such as a solicitor or bank) appointed in a Will to deal with financial affairs of the deceased.

Family Trust - A Trust established during the Clients lifetime designed to prevent any formal administration being necessary upon death. The Trust can also simplify generation skipping or protection measures.

Funeral Wishes - Help your executors, by setting out in your Will the basic arrangements you wish to be made for your funeral. For instance, do you wish to be buried or cremated, to have your ashes buried or scattered, a service to follow a particular religious rite etc?

Gift - An asset you give completely to someone else.

Grant of Probate - The Court’s authority for the Executors to deal with the deceased’s financial affairs.

Guardian - The person or people appointed by the Testator to have parental responsibility for children or dependents if they die.

Home - Your main or only home, often referred to as your ‘principal private residence’.

Income - Any money or interest generated by an asset, rather than the value of it.

Intellectual Property - Anything you have created and protected by a patent or copyright, for example.

Intestate/Intestacy - The term given to dying without a Will.

Joint Tenants - One of the two different ways two or more people can own a single property.

Joint Tenants in Common - The second of the two different ways that two or more people can own a single property. Each owner owns an individual share in the property and can leave it to whomever they wish in their Will.

Legacy - A gift left to a person or organisation in your will.

Letter of Wishes - Guidance about your wishes, which your trustees do not have to follow.

Liabilities - Debts or bills that must be paid from your estate after you die.

Lifetime Gift - Something you give away while you are alive rather than by your Will.

Medical Donation - You may wish to give your body, or parts of it, for medical research, training or transplant. Details may be included in your Will.

Mirror Will - A set of two Will documents that are similar in content. Such documents are normally written for ‘couples’. Mirror Wills have replaced ‘Joint Wills’ which were rather inflexible.

Mutual Wills - Mutual Wills cannot be changed after one of you has died.

Pecuniary legacy - A gift of money in a Will.

Probate - Legal procedure followed after death to ensure that your Will is valid and which gives the executors power to deal with your estate.

Probate Registry - The legal office (sometimes a sub-registry), like a court, which grants appointed people permission to administer the deceased person’s estate.

Property - Anything owned by a person, not just a building or land.

Protective Property Trust - a Will Trust that protects a property should one of the owners die. The half of the property the deceased person owned is passed to a Trust instead of to the surviving partner. This will protect it should the surviving partner remarry or require residential care.

Residual Beneficiaries - Persons who will benefit from the residual estate.

Residue/Residuary Estate - Whatever remains in your estate after all debts, taxes and gifts have been deducted.

Revoked - A document that has been cancelled, rather that altered.

Schedule - List of assets in a trust or Will.

Settlor - The person who sets up a Trust.

Severance of Tenancy (SOT) - The procedure that enables Joint Tenant owners to convert to Tenants in Common.

Specific Legacy - A gift of specific item such as personal possessions; e.g. jewellery, or land, buildings or investments such as shares.

Survivor - The last person within a defined relationship or group to die.

Testator/Testatrix (male/female) - The owner of a Will.

Transfer of Nil Rate Band (NRB) - The NRB is transferrable from one married or civil partner to another. If the first to die does not use it in full or only a proportion of it, the unused proportion will be available for use at the second death.

Trust - An arrangement where property is owned by trustees for someone else’s benefit.

Trustee/s - The person/people or organisation that looks after anything in the Trust before passing the assets to the beneficiaries at the appropriate time.

Will (Last Will and Testament) - Quite simply, a legal document which details a person’s wishes for after they have died.

Witnesses - Two independent people who are required to sign the Will stating that they have observed the Testator signing it. The witnesses must not be benefiting from the Will or be married to (or be in a civil partnership with) anyone benefiting from the Will.