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Guide Titles

Wills and Probate Glossary

Lay executors need to fully understand the meaning of legal terminology and expressions relating to Wills and Probate. Some of the expressions are obscure or unusual, so it is imperative to verify any misunderstanding. The most commonly used words and expressions are listed below:

Administrator: The name given to a personal representative, if not appointed by a valid Will. The Administrator will normally have to obtain letters of administration to illustrate that he/she is the person with the legal authority to deal with the property of the deceased.

Affidavit: A written declaration, made on oath, before a person who is authorised to administer oaths.

Assets: The value of an estate.

Beneficiary: A person(s) who benefits from a Will.

Bequest: A gift of a particular object or cash left to somebody in a Will.

Certainty.co.uk: The Certainty National Will Register www.certainty.co.uk

Chattels: An item of personal property which is not freehold land and is not intangible. Chattels are typically movable property, personal eg furniture, wine, pictures, jewellery, books, cars, not used for business.

Child: (referred to in a Will or intestacy). Child of the deceased, to include illegitimate and adopted children. However, excluding stepchildren, unless specifically included in a Will.

Class of Persons: A group of persons with a common association e.g. all grandchildren or all second cousins.

Codicil: A document that alters an existing Will. An additional part of a Will which either modifies or revokes part of it.

Co-habitee: A partner of the deceased who may be able to claim a share of the estate. The term ‘common law wife’ has no legal force.

Confirmation: The Scottish term used to describe both the English terms ‘probate’ and ‘letters of administration’.

Contingent: Where an event must happen before a gift can be made. eg The beneficiary must reach 18 before any payment can be made. The child, therefore, has a ‘contingent’, rather than an absolute entitlement to the money.

Crown: The Government of a constitutional monarchy.Demise: A grant of a lease.

Devise: A gift of land or property.

Disposition: A formal conveyancing document in Scotland.

Domicile: The country considered to be the permanent home, even if one actually resides elsewhere. It is distinct from nationality and place of residence.

Enduring Power of Attorney: A form that authorises someone to act on another’s behalf.

Estate: All the assets and property of the deceased, to include property, vehicles, art, money, personal belongings, investments.

Excepted Estate: One that is less than £240,000 or more that £240,000 but less that £1,000,000 and no IHT is payable because the estate passes to a spouse or to charity.

Executor: The name given to a personal representative if he or she is appointed by a valid Will or Codicil. The Executor usually has to apply for probate of the Will to prove that he or she is the person with the legal authority to deal with the estate of the deceased.

Executor-dative: In Scotland, an administrator appointed by the Court, for a person who dies intestate.

Executor-nominate: The Scottish term for the English term ‘Executor’.

Grant of probate: The document issued by the Probate Registry to the Executors of a Will, giving authorisation to administer the estate.

Guardian: The person who would be legally entrusted to manage the affairs of or look after the children(minor) in the event of the death of his/her parents, prior to the children reaching the age of 18.

Heritable estate: Land and buildings in Scotland.

ILEX: ILEX is the professional body representing around 22,000 qualified and trainee Legal Executives. Legal Executives are lawyers and are defined as authorised persons undertaking reserved legal activities.

Inheritance Tax (IHT): Tax payable to the Government when the total estate of the deceased person exceeds the set threshold. (This is subject to exemptions and adjustments).

Intestate: A person who dies not having made a legally valid Will.

Issue: The children and all generations arising from them – grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.

Lawyer: A trained and regulated legal professional.

Legacy: A gift or bequest of real or personal property by Will. A legacy becomes effective after the death of its author.

Letters of administration: The document issued by the Probate Registry to the administrator of the estate of an intestate person.

Letter of administration with Will annexed:
The document which is issued by the Probate Registry to the Administrator when there is a Will which has not covered all relative issues eg it has failed to appoint an Executor.

Life interest: A gift which permits the right to income from an asset or the right to reside in a property for the duration of their life, after which the asset or property passes to another benefactor mentioned in the gift (known as the remainderman).

Life tenant: The person who enjoys the benefit for life.

Minor: A person under the age of 18.

Moveable estate: In Scotland, property other than land and buildings.

Named person: A person who is named in the Will.

A National Will Register: www.certainty.co.uk

Next of kin:
The person (closest relative) entitled to the estate when a person dies intestate.

Personal estate or personalty:
All the investments and belongings of a person, other than land and buildings.

Personal representative: The general term for Administrators and Executors.

Prior rights: In Scotland, rights to the property, its furnishings plus a cash sum. In the case of larger estates, however, where intestacy is unusual, prior rights often mean that the surviving spouse inherits the entire estate.

Probate of the Will: The document issued to Executors by a Probate Registry in Northern Ireland, England and Wales to authorise the Executors to administer the estate.

Probate Registry: The Government office which deals with probate matters. The Principal Probate Registry is situation in London, with some district offices.

Real Estate or realty: Land and buildings owned by a person.

Register a Will: Register the location of your Will.

Remaindermen: The person who receives an asset on the death of the life tenant.

Residuary beneficiary: A person who acquires or shares the remainder of the estate after all debts, taxes and specific legacies have been paid.

Residue: The remainder of the estate left to be shared out after all debts and specific bequests and legacies have been paid.


Search for a Will: Term used by Certainty.co.uk whereby a lost or missing Will can be searched.

Store a Will: Term used by Certainty.co.uk meaning the place holding details (a solicitors office) where a Will is held.

Solicitor: A trained and regulated legal professional.

Solvent: The value of the assets exceeds any liabilities and debts.

Specific bequests: Detailed items gifted by the Will. These may be referred to as ‘specific legacies’.

STEP: STEP members (STEPs) provide expert advice on how to comply with the often complex law and tax rules surrounding trusts, estates and inheritance.

Testator: A person who has made a legally valid Will.

Trustee: The person given the legal authority to administer a Trust.

Will: A statement of what somebody wants to happen to his or her property/estate after he or she dies or a legal document containing this statement.

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