This Glossary gives only brief definitions of words and phrases commonly used in probate, wills and administration of estates. It is not intended as a comprehensive or exhaustive list.
Abatement - Where the assets in an estate are insufficient to meet all legacies, the amount of the legacies are reduced pro rata. This process is referred to as abatement.
Ademption - A gift fails by ademption if the property identified in the will does not form part of the estate of the testator at the date of death.
Administrator (feminine: administratrix) - A person empowered by the grant of letters of administration to deal with the estate of anyone who has died without leaving a will or without appointing an executor in their will.
Advancement - The release of capital or assets to a beneficiary out of his notional share of the trust fund, prior to the time when he is entitled to benefit.
Affidavit - A statement made in writing and on oath which is sworn or affirmed before an individual who has authority to administer oaths.
Ambulatory - Not effective until the testator dies.
Annuity - A fixed sum payable at specified intervals over a specified period.
Appropriation - The allocation of a specific part of the estate in satisfaction of a particular entitlement.
Assent - The document by which personal representatives pass the legal title to land to the person entitled to it under the terms of the deceased's will or the intestacy rules.
Attest - To bear witness to something.
Attestation clause - A clause found at the end of a deed or document which confirms that a party to the deed or document has signed the same in the presence of a witness.
Attorney - A person empowered by the grant of a power of attorney to act on behalf of another person.
Beneficiary - An individual receiving a legacy or benefit under a will or on intestacy.
Bequest - A legacy or gift.
Bona vacantia - On intestacy, where there is no relative entitled to benefit, the estate passes as bona vacantia to the Crown or the Duchies of Cornwall or Lancaster.
Caveat -This acts as a stop on an estate, preventing the issue of a grant.
Certified copy - A copy of a document which is certified by the solicitor in whose custody the original is held, as being a true copy of that original document.
Chattels - Personal property including furniture, furnishings and movable goods.
Citation - A citation is used to speed up the issue of a grant of representation where the executor or other person entitled in priority to the grant is failing to take action.
Civil partner - a person who has gone through a civil partnership ceremony. This is not the same as a cohabitee.
Codicil - A document, attested in the same way as a will, which amends an existing will.
Commissioner for oaths - A solicitor or legal executive empowered to administer oaths.
Conveyance - A document which transfers legal title to freehold land from the seller to the buyer.
Covenant - An agreement or promise embodied in a deed by which a party binds himself to undertake or to refrain from undertaking a particular action. A covenant can also be worded to be binding on land.
Deceased - A person who has died.
Deed - A document executed with the necessary formalities to make it into a deed.
Devise A gift of real property by will.
Donatio mortis causa A gift made in contemplation of death which is perfected and becomes effective on the death of the person making the gift.
Donee A person receiving property by way of gift.
Donor A person transferring property by way of gift.
Enduring power of attorney (now known as a lasting power of attorney) - A deed by which a person authorises a third party to act on his behalf, the authority conveyed by the deed continuing even where the donor becomes mentally incapable.
Estate - The assets and property belonging to a deceased person.
Execution - The act of signing a deed such as a will with all necessary formality.
Executor (feminine: executrix) - A person appointed by will to deal with the administration of an estate.
Fiduciary - an individual or trust company working for the benefit or another
Funeral arrangements - Specific requirements or requests you can designate in a special portion of your legal will as to how you wish your body to be disposed of.
Grant of probate - The grant issued to an executor confirming his appointment and authority to deal with the administration of an estate.
Grantor - an individual who conveys property by means of a trust; in Wills, the person whose wishes are expressed
Holograph - Handwritten; alternatively, a document which is entirely the personal written work of the testator.
Income - returns from the property such as interest, dividends, rents, etc.
Indemnity - An arrangement or agreement to protect an individual against loss, damage or expense.
Inheritance tax - a 40% tax applied to the largest estates. A certain amount can be passed on tax-free, which we call the 'tax-free allowance'. This is also known as the 'nil rate band'. Everyone in the 2015-2016 tax year has a tax-free inheritance tax allowance of £325,000. The allowance has remained the same since 2010-11, and will stay frozen until at least 2017.
Intestate - A person who has died without leaving a valid will or without disposing of all his estate by will.
Joint and several - Where the parties to an agreement declare themselves to be jointly and severally liable, they are stating that both of them accept liability for the whole debt or obligation and not simply for a proportionate part of it.
Joint tenants -Where co-owners of property own as joint tenants, on the death of one co-owner the property automatically passes and belongs to the survivor(s) by reason of survivorship. The interest of a deceased joint tenant does not fall into his estate.
Lasting power of attorney - A deed by which a person authorises a third party to act on his behalf, the authority conveyed by the deed continuing even where the donor becomes mentally incapable.
Legacy - A gift under a will. A gift of money is referred to as a pecuniary legacy and a gift of a particular item is referred to as a specific legacy.
Letters of administration - The official document issued by the court empowering an administrator to deal with the estate of a deceased person.
Life assured -The individual whose life is insured under a life insurance policy.
Nuncupative - Orally declared.
Oath - A sworn document.
Perpetuity - Continuing indefinitely, forever.
Personal representative (PR) - The generic term used to describe executors and administrators.
Precedent - (1) An example of a document which can then be adapted for use in connection with similar transactions; or (2) The decision of a court which is then referred to and possibly followed in subsequent similar cases.
Principal - the property or capital of an estate or trust.
Probate - See Grant of probate.
Real property - The term used to describe land as opposed to personal possessions.
Remoteness of vesting - Any gift made by will is void for remoteness of vesting if it does not necessarily take effect within 21 years from the termination of any life in being at the date of the testator's death.
Settled land - Land held in trust under a settlement and where the trust usually grants lifetime rights or interests in property to successive generations of a family.
Statutory declaration - A statement made in writing and sworn before a person entitled to administer oaths. It differs from an affidavit in that it has force by virtue of an Act of Parliament.
Statutory instrument - A form of legislation which is not itself an Act of Parliament but which is made under the authority of an Act of Parliament.
Statute - An Act of Parliament
Tenant for life - An individual who has lifetime rights in respect of settled land.
Tenants in common - Where co-owners own property as tenants in common, each co-owner has a defined share or interest and on death this will pass in accordance with his will or the intestacy rules and will not necessarily pass to the surviving co-owners.
Testament - A will or codicil.
Testamentary disposition - A gift made by will or codicil.
Testator (feminine: testatrix) - The individual making a will or codicil.
Trustee - An individual or trust company entrusted with the legal title to and management of property, but who holds the same for the benefit of others and acts according to a trust.
Vesting assent - See Assent
Will - The document by which a testator gives instructions for the disposal of his estate on his death.
Witnesses - 2 witnesses must witness you signing your legal will and each other sign your legal will. These witnesses cannot be family members or beneficiaries.