Probate Solicitors Limited - Legal Terms Explained

Glossary of legal terms

Administrator: Name given to a personal representative if not appointed by a valid will.

Affidavit: Declaration in writing made upon oath before someone who is authorised to administer oaths.

Assets: The value of an estate/property of value held in a trust.

Attorneys:  The name given to the people appointed to make decisions under a Lasting Powers of Attorney.

Bare Trust: A simple form of trust in which the beneficiaries are absolutely entitled to the capital and the income immediately.

Beneficiary/beneficiaries: The people who benefit from a will or a trust.

Bequest: Gift of a particular object or money left in a will.

By-pass Trust/Pilot Trust:  A trust to protect assets.  Set up during one's lifetime usually settled with £10.  The trust usually receives further assets upon death eg: death in service benefit. The idea of these is to keep money outside of the estate of the testator for tax purposes but still maintain an element of flexibility over where the money goes.

Capacity: The term used to describe a person's ability to make decisions.  See also Mental Capacity and Testamentary Capacity.

Chattels: Personal items, eg: furniture, wine, pictures, books, cars, jewellery. Does not include money or investments or items used for business.

Chose in Action:  Intangible personal property, eg: money or investments.

Codicil:  A document which alters an existing will.

Contingent: Where an event must happen before a gift can be made; eg the beneficiary must reach 21 before any payment can be made.

Court of Protection:  A court set up under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 to appoint Deputies to make decisions for people who lack capacity and to adjudicate disputes over Powers of Attorney.

Deed:  A written legal document granting a right.

Deed of Variation:  A document that enables beneficiaries to vary a will after death where the variation is beneficial for tax purposes.  Conditions apply for the deed to effective.

Deputy:  A person appointed by the Court of Protection to make decisions on behalf of a person who lacks capacity.

Devise: Gift of house or land.

Discretionary Trust:  A trust that gives the trustees the ability to decide whether or not beneficiaries benefit from it.  The trustees have discretion to distribute the trust to the beneficiaries as they see fit.  However, they must exercise their discretion in line with the settlor's instructions.

Enduring power of attorney (EPA): A legal document that authorises someone to act on another’s behalf. These were replaced in 2007 by Lasting Powers of Attorney but EPAs signed before October 2007 are largely still valid.

Estate: All the assets and property of the deceased, including houses, cars, investments, money and personal belongings less any debts and liabilities.

Executor: Name given to a personal representative if he or she is appointed by a valid will or codicil.

Executor-dative: Administrator appointed by the court for a person who dies intestate.

Executrix: A female Executor. Executrices in the plural.

Fixed Trust:  A trust which stipulates exactly how much each beneficiary is to receive.

Grant of Letters of Administration:  The document, issued by the Probate Registry, which confirms who the administrators of an estate are and authorises them to administer it; where no will has been left and therefore no executors have been appointed.

Grant of Probate:  The document, issued by the Probate Registry, to the executors of a will to authorise them to administer the estate.

Grant of Representation:  A general term which includes grants of probate and grants of letters of administration.

Guardian: Person who will become responsible for your children in the event of the death of both parents before the children are 18 years old.

Inheritance tax (IHT): Tax that may be payable when the total estate of the deceased person exceeds a set threshold (subject to various exemptions and adjustments).

Intestate/Intestacy:  When someone dies without making a will they are said to die intestate.  The estate is then distributed in accordance with the law of intestacy.

Joint tenants:  A way of owning a property whereby all co-owners own the whole property and it passes to the remaining owners when an owner dies.

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA):  A document that enables 'attorneys', whom you have appointed, to make decisions on your behalf.

Legacy:  Gift of money or an object.

Life interest: Gift that gives someone the right to income from an asset or the right to occupation of a property for the duration of their life after which the asset or property passes to someone else, called the remainderman.

Mental Capacity:  The ability to make decisions for oneself.  If someone is no longer able to take decisions for themselves, through either an accident, dementia or a stroke, they are said to have lost mental capacity.

Minor: A person under 18 years of age.

Named person:  A person who is named in a will.

Next of kin:  Person(s) entitled to the estate when a person dies intestate.

Nil Rate Band:  The value of the assets that a person can leave without having to pay Inheritance Tax.

Office of the Public Guardian (OPG): A government body which keeps the register of Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPAs), Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) and supervises Deputies appointed by the Court of Protection.

Personal estate or personalty:  All the investments and belongings of a person apart from land and buildings.

Personal representative:  A general term which means executor or administrator.

Probate:  The document issued to executors by a Probate Registry to authorise them to administer the estate.

Probate Registry:  The Government office which deals with probate matters. The Principal Probate Registry is in London with district registries in cities and some large towns.

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

Related Trusts:  Trusts which are set up at the same time are said to be related trusts and therefore do not benefit from separate nil rate bands for tax purposes.

Remainderman:  A person entitled to the assets of a trust at the end of some specified period or after some event, eg: when the person with a life interest in a trust dies.

Residue:  What is left of the estate to share out after all the debts and specific bequests and legacies have been paid.

Settlor:  The person that sets up a trust.

Solvent:  Total value of the assets exceeds the total debts and liabilities.

Tenants in Common:  A way of owning a property whereby all co-owners own their own shares of the property.  Their share does not pass to the surviving co-owners on their death and can be left to another party.

Testamentary Capacity:  The capacity that a person must have to make a will. To have testamentary capacity the testator must understand the nature of making a will, have a general idea of what they possess, and appreciate who is likely to have a claim to the estate.

Testator:  The person who makes a will.

Testatrix:  A female Testator. Testatrices in the plural.

Trust:  A way of looking after money, land, property and investments or any other asset without specifically leaving it to someone directly.

Trustee:  A person responsible for administering a trust.

Will:  The document in which you say what is to happen to your possessions on your death.

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