Legal Terminology

The following definitions will help you understand more about Essential Legal terms that are being used in your Will or any other legal documents on a frequent basis.



A person appointed to wind up the estate of a person who has died intestate (without a Will) or appointed when an executor appointed in a Will is unable or unwilling to act.



The transfer of an asset itself instead of its sale proceeds.



The person or professional you appoint to act on your behalf to manage your affairs if you become incapable of doing so yourself. 



Anything you own.


Advance Directive

A decision/direction you can make now to refuse a specific type of treatment at some time in the future if you are unable to make or communicate those decisions yourself.



Anyone who receives something in your Will.



An object gift (not a fixed sum of money) made in your Will. Usually gifts of personal property and possessions.



All personal effects excluding those for business purposes, money or securities for money.



A formal document which amends or adds to a Will.


Contested Will

A will that is challenged.



The government. This is where your possessions would go if you have no surviving relatives at all and have not made a Will.


Deed of Variation

As long as all beneficiaries agree there is a possibility that within 2 years of a death the Will content may be varied to make it more tax efficient or fairer.



The person who gives their power to make decisions to someone else. 



Someone appointed by the Courts to manage your affairs if you do not have an Attorney in place.



The total value of everything you own at your death.



A person or persons appointed by the Will and authorised by the Courts to deal with the affairs of the deceased. When someone dies he or she will leave assets such as real property, bank accounts and personal belongings which will need to be dealt with.



The person appointed by you to look after your minor children or a disabled dependant.


Inheritance Tax (IHT)

This is payable tax at 40% on the proportion of an estate that exceeds the tax-free amount you can give away (which is £325,000 currently).



An inquest is a Legal inquiry into the medical cause and circumstances of a death. It is held in public, sometimes with a Jury.



When you die without having made a Will or when your Will does not cover what is happening to all of your estate.



Children, grandchildren, and other more remote descendants.


Joint Tenants

All parties jointly own the property and not one part of it. On death it is automatically passed to the surviving joint tenant regradless of a Will.



A gift, usually of money, made in your Will.


Mirror Wills

When two people make almost identical Wills, usually leaving everything to each other but with some minor changes.


Nil Rate Band (NRB)

The amount you can leave free of Inheritance Tax (IHT). This sum is currently £325,000.



Office of the Public Guardian, where your Lasting Powers of Attorney will be registered.



This is a medical examination of the body to find out more about the cause of death.



The validation of a Will by the Court of Probate which then gives authorisation to your executors to deal with your affairs after your death in accordance with your Will.



The act of correcting



Anything that remains of your estate after all your debts, taxes, costs and specific or pecuniary legacies have been paid.


Residuary Legacy

An instruction in your Will which states what should happen to the residue of your estate.



Cancellation of a Will by destruction, written revocation, new Will, the order of the Court.



Branch of family.


Tenants In Common

Each owner owns a distinct share of home - with a couple usually 50%. A Trust can be put in the Will to protect that share.


Testamentary Capacity

In the common law tradition, testamentary capacity is the legal term of art used to describe a person's legal and mental ability to make or alter a valid will. This concept has also been called sound mind and memory or disposing mind and memory.



A legal obligation given by a person called the donor or settlor, binding upon the trustee, for the benefit of another person (the beneficiary).



The person or professional appointed by you to set up and manage any Trusts within your Will or any funds for minor children.


Undue Influence

The act of one person taking advantage of a position of power over another person.