Administrator Where the deceased did not leave a will, the will does not name executors, or where the executors are not able or willing to act, an Administrator is appointed to deal with an estate (see below).
Assets Things someone owns, such as money, investments, property and possessions. When someone dies, the assets they leave are their 'estate'.
Attorney An individual who is given the power to take decisions on someone else's behalf under a lasting power of attorney.
Beneficiary This is a person (or organisation) who is entitled to a share in the deceased’s estate, whether under the terms of the Will or in accordance with the laws of intestacy (see below).
Bequest A gift left to someone in a will.
Caveat A probate registry procedure you can use to ensure that you are informed if anyone applies to be the executor or administrator of an estate, giving you the chance to discuss your concerns or take court action.
Codicil A legal document that amends the terms of a will. If someone wants to change their will, drawing up a codicil is an alternative to preparing an entirely new will.
Coroner An official (usually a lawyer or a doctor) who is responsible for investigating an unexplained or suspicious death.
Court of Protection A specialist court that deals with applications for deputyships and other questions relating to people who may lack the capacity to make their own decisions.
Deputyship A deputy is a person appointed by the Court of Protection to manage the affairs of someone who lacks the mental capacity to manage their own affairs.
Donor In terms of a lasting power of attorney, the person who is giving the attorney the power to make decisions on their behalf.
Enduring power of attorney A type of power of attorney created prior to October 2007 when lasting powers of attorney were introduced. Existing enduring powers of attorney are still valid, but new ones cannot be drawn up.
Estate The assets (eg money, investments, property, personal possessions and so on) left by a deceased person.
Executor When someone dies, the Executor is responsible for sorting out the finances and then distributing what is left according to the Will of the deceased.
Exemption Certain gifts and transfers are exempt from inheritance tax (eg gifts to a spouse or to charities).
Grant of Probate The Executor applies for a Grant of Probate from a section of the court known as the Probate Registry. The Grant is a legal document which confirms that the Executor or Administrator has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets. They can use it to show they have the right to access funds, sort out finances and collect and share out the deceased person’s assets as set out in the Will.
Inheritance Tax Inheritance Tax is sometimes paid on an Estate when somebody dies. It is dependent upon the size of the estate. The Executor or personal representative pays it using funds from the deceased’s estate. The current threshold can be found on the government website: https://www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax.
Intestacy When someone dies without a valid will, the deceased person is then intestate and the estate must be distributed according to set rules of intestacy.
Joint tenants How spouses or civil partners commonly own property. When one dies, the other automatically inherits the whole property. Neither of you can leave your home (or a share in it) to anyone else in your will.
Lasting power of attorney A legal document in which the donor gives the attorney the power to make decisions on their behalf, either in relation to property and financial affairs or health and welfare.
Legacy A gift left to someone in a will.
Letters of administration The official court documents that confirm the appointment of someone to act as the administrator for an estate.
Office of the Public Guardian Deals with the registration of lasting powers of attorney (and enduring powers of attorney) and the supervision of deputies.
Pecuniary bequest A gift in a will of a specific sum of money.
Personal representative A person responsible for administering an estate; this is a generic term that covers both the executor(s) and the administrator(s).
Probate This is a term commonly used when talking about applying for the right to deal with a deceased person’s affairs.
Probate Registry The part of the HM Courts and Tribunals Service that deals with wills and estates.
Register Office When someone dies, their death must be registered with the Register Office, normally within five days.
Residue What is left of an estate after pecuniary and specific legacies, debts, inheritance tax and expenses.
Tenancy in common Where two or more people have ownership interests in a property. Each owner has the right to leave his (or her) share of the property to any beneficiary upon the owner's death.
Testator The person making a will.
Trust A trust allows you to pass assets to someone while you are still alive or under the terms of a will. Rather than being received outright, the assets are received with restrictions and so can only be used in the way you have prescribed (eg a sum of money does not pass to a child until their 21st birthday).
Will A properly witnessed written legal document setting out how a testator wishes his or her estate to be distributed on death.
Witness In terms of wills, someone who observes the signing of the will (and signs to confirm this). Witnesses (and their spouses or civil partners) cannot inherit anything from the will.
Last Updated: Thursday 25th April 2019
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