We have put together a quick guide to all the terminology below, which you can use as a quick reference tool if you need clarification on any of the vocabulary.
Someone who is appointed by law to settle your affairs if you die without a Will (intestacy).
Anyone who benefits from a Will. Chattels
A person's belongings.
A legal change to a Will. Used much less often these days as the most people simply create a new Will and revoke previous Wills, which in many instances is a clearer way of making changes to accommodate changes in circumstances.
Crown or Treasury
The government; if you do not have a Will and have no close family, the Crown receives the benefit from your estate.
The total value of everything you own at your death, less any debts.
Executor/Executrix (Male /Female)
The people you choose to carry out the
instructions in your Will. This can involve
obtaining Probate, realising the various assets in the estate before distributing it in accordance with the Will.
Funeral arrangements
Directions you can give in your Will regarding your wishes such as details of your burial.
Grant of Probate
Document giving the executors appointed in the Will the authority to deal with the estate. Grant of Letters of Administration Document giving the administrator the authority to deal with the estate.
Joint Tenants
Each owner has an interest in the whole of the property; if one owner dies their interest automatically passes to the other. This is known as the right of survivorship. The interest of a joint tenant can never pass under his or her Will or in the event of there being no Will, in accordance with the Rules of intestacy.
Tenants in Common
Each co-owner owns a one-half share in the property or such other share as is agreed and recorded in a legally binding deed signed by all the co-owners. Each co-owner can dispose of their share independently of the other. On the death of a co-owner, their share will not automatically pass to the other but will pass to their personal representatives or as determined in their Will.
Testator/Testatrix (Male /Female)
The person making the Will.
An arrangement you can make in your Will to administer part of your assets after your death.
A person or persons charged with the responsibility of looking after any children you may have following your death. You can only appoint a guardian if you yourself have parental responsibility for your child; if you and the other parent of the child were married to each other at the time of the child's birth, both parents have "parental responsibility" for the child; if not, the mother of the child has parental responsibility for the child but not the father unless he acquires it by Court Order or by agreement between the parents under the terms of the Children's Act 1989 Section 3; if you have parental responsibility for your child and you appoint a guardian, and there is no other parent of the child surviving you who has parental responsibility for the child, your appointment of a guardian will take effect straightaway on your death; if there is a surviving parent who does have parental responsibility for the child, the appointment will not take effect until that surviving parent dies. The exception to this is where you have a residence order for your child in which case any guardian who you appoint will act jointly with the surviving parent as from the date of your death.
Inheritance Tax
A tax charged at the rate of 40% on all assets worth more than the IHT threshold (currently £325,000) when someone dies. There are certain exceptions to this; the transferable nil rate band, gifts between spouses or civil partners and to charity.
The name for the situation that arises when someone dies without making a Will.
Joint Assets
Assets held in joint names with another person, whether it is an interest in land or cash and investments, e.g. a bank account held in the joint names of a married couple or civil partners. On death, any interest in property held by the deceased as a joint tenant with another passes by survivorship to the surviving joint tenant; it would not pass under the terms of the Will.
Transferable Nil Rate Band
An estate of a surviving spouse or civil partner can now benefit from two nil rate bands. This can be achieved by the personal representatives of the estate claiming the unused nil rate band of the first to die.
Two witnesses must see you sign your Will and you must also watch both of them sign it. They must also watch each other sign the Will. No beneficiary (or their spouse) should sign the Will; if they do, any gift to them or their spouse will be invalid.
A gift in a Will, it can be a:
• Specific legacy - a definite object or property.
• Pecuniary legacy - a gift of a specific sum of money.
• Residual legacy - (the residue): a gift of the remainder of the estate following the
payment of other specific legacies. Basically, whatever is left of the estate.
• Life interest - A gift of, for example, the house to your spouse for their lifetime, then to the children
• Conditional interest - a legacy that is
dependent upon an event, usually a gift to a minor dependant on them attaining a specific age.
Letters of Administration
Document giving the personal representatives of an interstate the authority to deal with the estate.
Nil Rate Band (NRB)
The inheritance Tax-free allowance (currently £325,000) is known as the Nil Rate Band.
Personal Representatives
These are the people appointed to deal with a deceased estate. They are either executors or court appointed under the Intestacy Rules.
Principal Beneficiary
Person or persons to whom the residuary estate is initially left. In the event of the principal beneficiary/beneficiaries predeceasing you, the residue will pass to the substitute beneficiary/beneficiaries; if, for example, the testator wishes to leave everything to his wife and in the event of
her predeceasing him, everything to his brother; his wife would be the Principal Beneficiary, with the brother as the Substitute Beneficiary.
The legal process to establish your Will is valid; if there is no valid Will, then the process by which an administrator is appointed.
Specific Legacy
A gift of a particular item or group of items owned by the testator; distinguished in the Will from other assets of the same kind, for example: 'l GIVE my diamond and sapphire brooch to X'; I GIVE all my jewellery to Y.' Care must be taken to describe the property as clearly and accurately as possible; if the asset cannot be identified from the description in the Will, the gift may fail due to uncertainty.