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Glossary

A quick reference to make sense of the specialist terms used when writing your Will or Power of Attorney

A Administrator

If you die without leaving a will and naming executors, your estate will be dealt with by an administrator. There are strict laws about who can be one.

Assets

The land, buildings, investments, savings and personal belongings (such as your car) which make up your estate.

Attorney

A person you appoint to make decisions on your behalf. These can be decisions about your health and welfare, your property and financial affairs, or both. Any decisions your attorney makes must be in your best interests.

B Beneficiary

A person who has something left to them in a will.

Bequest

This is a gift in a will of a particular object or cash. If the gift is land or a building, it's called a 'devise' instead.

C Certificate provider

The person the donor chooses to complete a certificate in the Lasting Power of Attorney form. The certificate provider must confirm that the donor understands the LPA and is not under any pressure to create the document.

Child/Children

In a will, this means your biological and adopted children are younger than 18. It does not include stepchildren unless they’re specifically mentioned. A child is aged under 18.

Class of persons

A group of people with a particular common link, such as 'all my grandchildren', or 'all my first cousins'.

Codicil

A document you can create to change your existing will. This is usually a small change, like adding an executor or making a gift.

Cohabitee

A person who lives with you, but is not married to or in a civil partnership with you.

Confirmation

In Scotland, these are documents that authorise executors to deal with the estate. They are issued by the Sheriff court.

Continuing Power of Attorney (CPA)

In Scotland, a CPA is a legal document that appoints someone to look after your property and financial affairs. It can include the powers to manage your bank accounts and sell your house. Donors may set up continuing and welfare power of attorney in a single document.

D Domicile

The Country that you consider to be your home, even if you live elsewhere and pay tax in another country.

Donor

The person making a lasting power of attorney.

E En ventre sa mere

An unborn baby. A legal term from French, meaning ‘a child within the mother's womb’.

Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA)

A legal document that appoints someone as attorney to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf. In England and Wales EPAs were replaced by LPAs in 2007, but arrangements set up before then are still valid. In Northern Ireland enduring powers of attorney are still used.

Estate

Everything owned by a person who has died. For inheritance tax purposes, your estate is made up of:

  • assets solely in your name;
  • your share of joint assets
  • assets you have nominated elsewhere
  • assets in trust (such as an immediate post-death interest or disabled person's interest from which you had a benefit)
  • assets given away but in which you have a ‘reserved benefit’. For example, a house that you signed over to someone else but continued to live in
  • the value of any assets you gave away for up to seven years before you died
Excepted estate

An estate with no inheritance tax to pay. Excepted estates are any that are worth less than £325,000, or that pass to a spouse, civil partner or a charity.

Executor(m)/ executrix(f)

A personal representative you appoint in your will or codicil to deal with your estate after you die. They do things such as:

  • telling businesses, such as your bank, that you have died and collecting money from them
  • opening a bank account on behalf of your estate
  • preparing a detailed list of your property, money and possessions and paying inheritance tax
  • paying debts, expenses and fees, such as solicitors' fees and probate fees
  • sharing out your estate in line with your will
Executor dative

In Scotland, this is your personal representative if you die without a will or the executor you name cannot or will not carry out their duties. They are appointed by the Sheriff court.

Executor nominate

In Scotland, this is the name given to the personal representative you nominate in your will or codicil. The executor may have to apply for confirmation to show they have the legal authority to deal with your property.

F Free of tax

You can decide to make a gift in your will free of tax. This means that any inheritance tax on that gift is paid by the residuary estate – the money left after all bequests, legacies and debts have been paid.

G Guardian

A person who would become responsible for your children if you died before they turned 18.

H Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney

A legal document that appoints an attorney to make decisions about your health and personal welfare if you can no longer make them for yourself. Your attorney will only be able to make decisions if your LPA is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, and you have lost mental capacity. 

Heritable property

Land, buildings or interest in land or buildings.

I Inheritance tax (IHT)

The tax paid on your estate if it’s worth more than a set amount, after various exemptions, reliefs and adjustments have been applied. For more information visit gov.uk

Intestate

A person who dies without making a will.

Issue

Your children and all generations that come from them – grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on.

J Joint tenants

If you own your home with another person, you’re either joint tenants or tenants in common. If you’re joint tenants, you own the whole property together, rather than having separate stakes. This means that when one of you dies, the surviving partner becomes sole owner.

L Legacy

A gift you leave in your will, such as a sum of money or an object.

Letters of administration

Documents that authorise an administrator to deal with your affairs if you die without leaving a will and naming executors. They are issued by the Probate Registry.

Letters of administration with will annexed

The document issued by the Probate Registry to the administrator when there is a will but it does not contain a valid appointment of an executor.

M Minor

A person under 18 years of age.

Moveables

Personal belongings that can be moved, such as jewellery, furniture, wine, pictures, books, cash and investments.

O Office of Care and Protection

An agency in Northern Ireland with responsibility for Powers of Attorney.

Office of the Public Guardian

An agency of the Ministry of Justice. The Office of the Public Guardian maintains the registers of Enduring Powers of Attorney, Lasting Powers of Attorney and deputies in England and Wales. The Scottish Office of the Public Guardian is based in Falkirk.

P People to notify

Someone chosen by the donor to be told when an application is made to register their Power of Attorney.

Personal representative

A general term for both administrators and executors.

Probate of the Will

In England & Wales or Northern Ireland, the authorisation that your executors can deal with your estate.

Probate Registry

The court that deals with probate matters. The Principal Probate Registry is in London, with district registries in cities and some large towns.

Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney

This appoints an attorney to make decisions about your property and financial affairs if you can no longer make them for yourself.

Provision

A clause in a Will.

R Residuary beneficiary

Someone who gets all or some of your estate’s residue – what is left of the estate after all debts, taxes and specific legacies have been paid (or a share of it).

Residue

What is left of the estate after all debts, taxes and specific legacies have been paid.

S Sheriff court

A court in Scotland that deals with confirmation – documents that authorise executors to deal with the estate. There is a Sheriff court in each district in Scotland.

Solvent

Where the value of the assets exceeds any debts and liabilities.

Specific bequests

Particular items gifted in your Will. They may also be referred to as 'specific legacies'.

T Tenants in common

If you own your home with another person, you’re either joint tenants or tenants in common. If you’re tenants in common, you each own a share of the property. When one of you dies, their share goes to the person nominated in their Will. If there is no Will, inheritance will be decided by the rules of intestacy.

Testator(m)/Testatrix(f)

A person who makes a Will or Codicil.

Testamentary capacity

When you make your Will, the law says you must have the mental capacity to understand:

  • that a will deals with the distribution of your estate after death
  • approximately what assets and liabilities you have
  • the people who you may wish to benefit from your Will.
Trust

A legal arrangement under which assets are looked after by trustees for beneficiaries as set out in a trust document or a Will.

Trustee

A person responsible for administering a trust.

W Witness

Someone who signs a Will or Power of Attorney to confirm they have witnessed the testator or donor or attorney signing and dating.