Glossary of Probate Terms

29 June 2016 • Articles

Administer – To collect the assets, pay all debts owed from the estate and distribute the rest of the estate to the beneficiaries

Administrator – A person responsible for administering your estate who is not appointed as an executor because there was no will or the appointed executor in your will is unwilling or unable to apply for a grant of probate

Assets – House, land, stocks, shares, money and any other benefit belonging to you when you die

Attorney – A person who is given power to act on his or her behalf in regard to his or her financial affairs

Beneficiary – A person or organisation who receives a benefit under a will or trust

Bequest – A gift, sometimes called a benefit.

Chattels – These are personal assets such as a car, furniture, paintings, jewellery etc.

Child or Children – The first generation of issue of a marriage or other relationship

Codicil – A document that supplements the terms of an existing will, either by amending, adding or revoking it in part

Devise – A gift made in a will of real property, i.e. land or buildings

Donor – A person who gives the power to an attorney to act on their behalf enduring power of attorney (EPA) a type of power of attorney (made prior to 1 st October 2007) which remains effective even if the person who gives the power later loses their mental capacity

Estate – The assets that you own which can be left under your will

Execution – An effective and legally binding signing of a document

Executor – A person or company named in a will to be responsible for carrying out the terms of your will and administering your estate

Grant of Letters of Administration – A document issued by the Court confirming the administrator’s right to administer the estate

Grant of Probate – A document issued by the court confirming both the validity of a will and the executor’s right to administer the estate

Grant of Representation – In England and Wales the umbrella or generic term for a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration

Guardians – Someone who is appointed to take over responsibility for your infant child or children in the event of your death

Intestacy – An estate where there is no valid will and the law therefore directs who inherits the estate

Intestate – A person who has not made a will or not having a valid will

Issue – Children, grandchildren and remoter descendants indefinitely

Joint tenants – Joint ownership of, for example, a property by two (or more) people, where the shares pass automatically upon the death to the survivor(s). Contrast tenants in common.

Lasting power of attorney – A document which now replaces EPAs which deals either with all your property and affairs or personal and welfare matters and can be effective after the donor has lost mental capacity

Legacy – A gift made in a will of an item of personal property, i.e. a ring or shares (or money in the case of a pecuniary legacy)

Mirror Will – A will which contains almost identical terms to your will, such as those that may be made by husbands, wives or partners

Per Stirpes – Literally by their stocks e.g. there is a gift to “all my children”, but if one of the children dies before the person making the will leaving children of their own, those children as a group take the share that there parent would have received-they take per stirpes

Personal Representatives – Your executor or administrator

Power of Attorney – The document conferring the right for an attorney to act on behalf of a donor

Probate – The process of administering an estate to establish what assets exist, gather in the assets, pay any debts and liabilities and distribute the proceeds to those who are properly entitled

Residuary Estate – What is left, the remainder of the estate – the net sum for distribution after payment of funeral expenses, debts, any Inheritance Tax, pecuniary legacies, legal administration costs and any research fees etc. The residuary estate or residue is then distributed to the residuary beneficiaries named in the will or to the statutory next of kin under an intestacy.

Residue – The remainder of the estate after debts, legacies, funeral and other expenses including any Inheritance Tax have been taken off

Revoke – To legally cancel a specific legacy, a gift of particular property, such as a house, furniture or a car

Spouse – The person to whom you are married survived to be alive after the death of the will maker

Survivorship – In England and Wales, since the Law Reform (Succession) Act 1995, which came into effect for deaths after 1 January 1996, the spouse of an Intestate has been required to survive the Intestate by at least 28 days to attain a vested interest. A survivorship clause can also be inserted in a will to stipulate that a spouse or any other beneficiary has to survive the Deceased by a certain period of time before they may inherit

Tenants – In common joint ownership of, for example, a property by two (or more) people, where the shares do not pass automatically upon death to the survivor(s) but fall into the deceased part-owner’s estate. Contrast joint tenants.

Testamentary Expenses – The expenses of the executors

Testator – A person who makes a valid will

Testatrix – A woman who makes a will

Trust – The formal transfer of assets (e.g. property, shares or cash) to the trustees with instructions that they hold the assets for the benefit of others

Trustees – A company or individuals appointed by the trust deed or will to hold the trust assets and be responsible for the management of the trust

Will – A properly executed document which controls how a person’s assets are to be dealt with after his or her death