Legal terminology explained
Here are a few of the most commonly used words and expressions to help guide you through the process:
Administrator – The person, normally the next of kin, who handles the financial affairs of the deceased where a Will has not been made or executors have not been appointed in a Will.
Asset – Anything of value that you own.
Attestation – The correct confirmation 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 or Enduring Power of Attorney document to manage someone’s financial (LPA Property and Financial Affairs) or welfare (LPA Health and Welfare) issues, when they are still alive but unable to manage by themselves. Click here to download our Guide to Lasting Powers of Attorney.
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.
Business Trustee(s) – The person(s) controlling a trust containing business assets.
Capital – The value of any assets, rather than any income from them.
Charge – A liability, registered against property, which must be paid off when the property is sold or transferred.
Children – Children of any family in which the deceased at any time stood in the role of parent.
Codicil – A legal document altering or adding to an existing Will. It must be witnessed in its own right and kept with your Will.
Contractual Rights – Rights that can be enforced by law under a contract.
Conveyance – A document or process transferring ownership of land or buildings.
Deed – A legal document that must be witnessed.
Deed of Gift – The transfer of property, or share of property, from one person to another.
Donor – The owner of a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) or Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA).
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 a deceased person.
Family Trust – A trust established during a person’s lifetime designed to prevent any formal administration being necessary upon death. A Family Trust can also simplify generation skipping or protection measures. Click here to download our Family Trust Q&A document.
Gift – An asset you give completely to someone else. Click here to download our Guide to Gifting Assets.
Grant of Probate – The Court’s authority for the executors of a Will to deal with the financial affairs of the deceased person which is issued by the Probate Registry or Sub-Registry.
Guardian – The person or people appointed by a Testator to have parental responsibility after their death for their children or dependents.
Home – Your main or only home, often referred to as your ‘principal private residence’ (PPR).
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.
Intestacy – The term given to dying without a Will.
Intestacy (Partial) – Where a deceased person leaves a Will that fails to distribute the whole estate, or where there is no executor appointed and able to act.
Intestacy (Rules of) – The rules governing how the estate of an Intestate must be divided. The rules are fairly complicated – for more information, please click here.
Irrevocable – That cannot be revoked or cancelled.
Joint Tenancy – One of the two different ways two or more people can own a single property in equity. When one of the joint owners dies, the property will automatically be owned by the surviving joint tenant irrespective of what that person’s Will might state. Each owner owns a potential 100% share of the property. (See Severance of Tenancy below).
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) (Property and Financial Affairs) – A document which allows a person to appoint people to manage their financial affairs (called Attorneys) while they are still alive but unable to manage or wish for someone else to be able to manage their affairs. Click here to download our guide.
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) (Health & Welfare) – It is also possible to have an LPA (Health & Welfare) document whereby Attorneys are appointed to help manage health and welfare issues when a person is unable to manage. Click here to download our guide.
Legacy – A gift left to a person or organisation in a Will.
Letter of Wishes – A non-binding statement about your wishes, which your executors and/or trustees do not have to follow.
Liabilities – Debts or bills that must be paid from a person’s estate after they die.
Lifetime Gift – Something given away during a lifetime and not by a Will. Click here to download our Guide to Gifting Assets.
Literary Estate – All published and unpublished work written by a testator, and any associated royalties.
Literary Executor – The person who will manage a literary estate.
Mirror Will – A set of two Will documents that are similar in content. Such documents are normally written for couples.
Mutual Wills – Two or more Wills that are subject of a contract not to amend them following the death of either/any testator.
Occupant – The person(s) allowed to live in a property.
Pecuniary legacy – A gift of money in a Will.
Personal Chattels – Tangible moveable property other than money, securities or investments and business assets. The Administration of Estates Act 1925 lists these in section 55(1)(x).
Probate – Legal procedure followed after death authorising the administration of an estate according to the terms of a Will.
Probate Registry – The legal office (sometimes a sub-registry), like a court, which grants appointed people permission to administer a deceased person’s estate.
Protective Property Trust – A specific form of Will trust that protects a property should one of the owners die. The half of the property the deceased person owns is passed to a trust instead of to the surviving partner.
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 – That which has been cancelled, rather than altered.
Settlement – Another word for a trust.
Settlor – The person who sets up a trust.
Severance of Tenancy (SOT) – The procedure that enables equitable joint tenants to convert their form of ownership to tenancy in common.
Specific Legacy – A gift of a specific item such as personal possessions; e.g. jewellery, or land, buildings or investments such as shares.
STEP Provisions – Standard wordings in Wills and trusts drafted and approved by the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).
Survivor – The last person within a defined relationship or group to die.
Tenancies in Common – The second of the two different ways that two or more people can own a single property. Each owner owns a divisible share in the property and can leave it to whomever they wish in their Will. (See Severance of Tenancy above)
Trust – An arrangement where the legal interest in property is owned by trustees for someone else’s benefit.
Trust Period – How long the trust can exist before it is wound up and distributed. The maximum is 125 years in respect of a private trust.
Trustees – 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) – A legal document which details a person’s wishes for after they have died and which only comes into effect on their death.
Will Witnesses – Two independent people who are required to sign the Will stating that they have witnessed 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.