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Glossary of Legal Terms

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 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 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.

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 with 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 the 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 the property, or share of property, from one person to another. Sometimes when the husband, wife or one civil partner owns the whole of a property, but the owner wants it to be owned as Tenants in Common (see below), one partner gifts a share to the other.

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.

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. Issued by the Probate Registry or Sub-Registry.

Guardian(s) – The person or people appointed by the Testator to have parental responsibility for their children under the age of 18 years old, 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.

Inheritance Tax – A tax on the estate (the property, money and possessions) of someone who has died.

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.

Intestacy (Partial) – Where the deceased leaves a Will that fails to distribute the whole estate, or where there is no executors appointed and able to act.

Intestacy law – The rules governing how the estate of an intestate must to be divided. These rules are fairly complicated.

Irrevocable – A document that cannot be revoked or cancelled.

Issue – This means children, including illegitimate and adopted children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc. This does not include step-children who have not been legally adopted.

Joint Tenants – One of the two different ways two or more people can own a single property. When one of the joint owners dies, the property will automatically be owned by the surviving joint tenant(s), irrespective of what that deceased’s Will might state. Each owner owns 100% of the property.

Lasting Power of Attorney LPA (Health & Welfare) – It is also possible to have an LPA (Health & Welfare) document drafted, whereby Attorneys are appointed to help manage health and welfare issues when the customer is unable to manage.

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) (Property and Financial Affairs) – document, separate from a Will, which allows a person (the donor) to appoint people (the attorneys) to manage their financial affairs when they are still alive but unable to do so.

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.

Literary Estate – All published and unpublished work written by you, and any associated royalties.

Literary Executor – The person who will manage your literary estate.

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.

Occupant – The person(s) allowed to live in a property under a trust arrangement.

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 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.

Settlement – Another word for a trust.

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 a personal possession; e.g. jewellery, or land, buildings or investments such as shares.

STEP Provisions – Standard wordings to help executors and trustees do their job.

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

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.

Testator / Testatrix – The person (male / female) who makes the Will.

Trust – An arrangement where 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.

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) – Quite simply, a legal document which details a person’s wishes for after they have died.

Will Trust or Trust – A clause written into the Will that acts like a safety deposit box or safe.  When the person dies certain assets are passed into the Trust by the executors.

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

Inheritance Tax

Inheritance Tax is a tax on the estate (the property, money and possessions) of someone who's died.

Probate Services

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


A legal document which details a person's wishes for after they have died.

Lasting Power of Attorney - LPA

LPA is a way of giving someone you trust the legal authority to make decisions
on your behalf if you lack mental capacity at some
time in the future or no longer wish to make decisions for yourself.