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Glossary

Most common glossary terms

Beneficiary
A person who benefits from a will.
Domicile
The country you consider to be your permanent home for tax purposes, even if you actually reside elsewhere. It is distinct from nationality and place of residence.
Legacy
A gift of money or objects.
Donor
The person making a Lasting Power of Attorney to appoint an attorney to make decisions on their behalf.
Living will
A living will is used to advise your friends, family and medical professionals of your wishes about your healthcare if you become seriously ill and lose the capacity to make decisions or communicate. It refers to either an advance statement or an advance decision.

Glossary

Here you'll find a list of special terms that you're likely to come across when you write a will or set up a Power of Attorney. Just click the relevant heading below to start making sense of the jargon.

Wills and codicils

Administrator(m)/Administratrix(f)
The name given to a personal representative if not appointed by a valid will. This person obtains a grant of 'letters of administration' from the Probate Registry to show they are the person with legal authority to deal with the deceased's estate.
Assets
A person's land, buildings, investments, savings and personal chattels (for example, a car or jewellery) which together make up their estate.
Beneficiary
A person who benefits from a will.
Bequest
A gift of a particular object or cash (as opposed to a 'devise', which means land or buildings).
Charity
An organisation registered with the Charity Commission, as meeting the legal definition of a charity.
Civil partner
A person who has entered into a civil partnership with another person.
Civil partnership
The legal relationship between two civil partners (two people of the same sex who aren't related to each other) registered under the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
Child (referred to in a will or intestacy)
Child of the deceased including adopted and illegitimate children but, unless specifically included in a will, not stepchildren. A child is aged under 18.
Class of persons
A group of people with a particular common link, eg 'all my grandchildren', or 'all my first cousins'.
Codicil
A document that alters an existing will.
Cohabitee
A person who lives with their partner, but is not married or in a civil partnership with them. Please note that the term 'common law wife' has no legal force.
Confirmation
In Scotland, the documents issued by the Sheriff court to the executors to authorise them to deal with the estate.
Domicile
The country you consider to be your permanent home for tax purposes, even if you actually reside elsewhere. It is distinct from nationality and place of residence.
En ventre sa mere
This translates as a child within the mother's womb, ie an unborn child.
Estate
For inheritance tax purposes, this includes a person's assets in their sole name; their share of joint assets; assets they have nominated elsewhere, assets in trust (eg an immediate post-death interest or disabled person's interest from which they had a benefit); assets given away but in respect of which a benefit had been reserved; and the value of chargeable transfers within seven years of death.
Excepted estate
If an estate has no inheritance tax to pay, it will usually be an excepted estate. Examples of where no inheritance tax would be due include estates that are valued at less than £325,000 (until the 2018-19 tax year), or where the estate passes to a spouse, civil partner or a charity.
Executor(m)/Executrix(f)
The name given to a personal representative if he or she is appointed by a valid will or codicil. The executor will have to apply for probate of the will if it comprises stocks and shares or invested money over £15,000.

When you appoint an executor, consider whether it is necessary to appoint a professional one, such as a solicitor, will writer or bank. A professional executor is rarely needed if your affairs are straightforward - it can be done by family or friends, including beneficiaries.

Even if there is no professional executor named in the will, a non-professional executor can still employ a professional if they wish. Whether a firm is named as the sole executor, or joint executor with a non-professional, the firm's fees will be payable unless it 'renounces' (gives up) its executor duties. It can be expensive to use a professional executor, particularly if they charge a percentage of the value of the estate. Professional executors do not have to renounce if they are asked to by the beneficiaries, and may say they have been appointed according to your wishes when you made your will.
Executor dative
In Scotland, the name given to a personal representative if appointed by the Sheriff court where there is no will, or if the named executor(s) cannot or will not carry out the duties.
Executor nominate
The name given to a personal representative if appointed by a valid will or codicil. The executor may have to apply for confirmation to show they are the person with legal authority to deal with the deceased's property.
Free of tax
Gifts made in the will can be expressed to be free of tax. This means that any inheritance tax on the value of that gift is borne by the residuary estate - what's left after all bequests, legacies and debts have been paid./dd>
Guardian
A person who would become responsible for your children in the event of your death before they are 18 years old.
Heritable property
Land, buildings or interest in land or buildings.
Inheritance tax (IHT)
The tax payable when the total estate of the deceased person exceeds a set threshold (subject to various exemptions, reliefs and adjustments).
Insolvent
Where the value of debts and liabilities exceeds the value of any assets.
Intestate
A person who dies without making a will.
Issue
Your children and all generations arising from them - grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on..
Joint tenants
Where two or more people own assets as joint tenants, it means that on the occasion of one of their deaths their share in that asset passes automatically to the surviving co-owner(s) and not as part of their estate under their will.
Legacy
A gift of money or objects.
Letters of administration
The document issued by the Probate Registry to the administrator of the estate of an intestate person.
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.
Minor
A person under 18 years of age.
Moveables
Personal belongings, for example, jewellery, furniture and equipment, wine, pictures, books, cash and investments, and even cars and horses (not used for business).
Personal representative
A general term for both administrators and executors.
Probate of the will
The document issued to executors by a Probate Registry in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to authorise them to administer the 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.
Provision
Clause in a will.
Residuary beneficiary
A person who gets or shares what is left of the estate after all debts, taxes and specific legacies have been paid.
Residue
What is left of the estate to share out after all the debts and specific bequests and legacies have been paid.
Sheriff court
The court in Scotland that deals with 'confirmation'. 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 by the will. They may be referred to as 'specific legacies'.
Tenants in common
Where two or more people own assets as tenants in common, it means that they each own a share of the property, and on the occasion of one of their deaths the deceased's share passes in accordance with their will, or under the rules of intestacy if there is no will.
Testator(m)/Testatrix(f)
A person who makes a will or codicil.
Testamentary capacity
In making a will, a person must have the mental capacity to understand: that a will deals with the distribution of their estate after death; approximately what assets and liabilities they have; and the people who they may wish to benefit from the 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.
Will
The legal document witnessed by two witnesses in which you say what is to happen to your possessions on your death.

Powers of Attorney

Advance decision
A potentially legally binding statement instructing healthcare professionals on the type of care or treatment an individual wants or does not want if they are unable to communicate their wishes.
Advance statement
Information set down with an individual's medical records informing healthcare professionals of the kind of treatment they want or do not want should they become terminally ill.
Attorney
The person appointed to make decisions on behalf of the individual about either their health and welfare or property and financial affairs (or both). Any decisions they make must be in the individual's best interests.
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.
Continuing Power of Attorney (CPA)
In Scotland, this allows you to appoint someone to look after your property and financial affairs, and could include the powers to manage bank accounts or sell a house. Donors may set up Continuing and Welfare Powers of Attorney in a single document.
Court of Protection
The court in England and Wales that makes decisions on applications involving people who lack mental capacity.
Deputy
An individual appointed by the Court of Protection to make decisions for someone who has lost the capacity to do so and for whom no Power of Attorney is in place. In Scotland a deputy is called a 'guardian' and they are appointed by the local Sheriff Court.
Donor
The person making a Lasting Power of Attorney.
Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA)
An arrangement to appoint an attorney in the event that an individual loses the capacity to make their own decisions. In England and Wales EPAs were replaced by LPAs in 2007, but arrangements set up before then remain valid. In Northern Ireland Enduring Powers of Attorney are still in use.
General Power of Attorney
An arrangement to appoint an attorney for a limited period of time.
Health and Welfare Power of Attorney
This Power of Attorney allows the individual seeking a Lasting Power of Attorney to choose someone to make decisions about their health and personal welfare. An attorney will only be able to make decisions once the LPA is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, and provided that the individual can no longer make those decisions.
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
A document (in England and Wales) appointing an attorney in the event that an individual loses the capacity to make their own decisions. There are two types: Health and Welfare LPAs and Property and Financial Affairs LPAs.
Living will
A living will is used to advise friends, family and medical professionals of your wishes about your healthcare if you become seriously ill and lose the capacity to make decisions or communicate. It refers to either an advance statement or an advance decision.
Named person
Someone chosen by the donor to be notified when an application is made to register their Power of Attorney.
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 with responsibilities for maintaining 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.
Property and Financial Affairs Power of Attorney
This grants the attorney the power to make decisions about any or all of your affairs.
Welfare Power of Attorney (WPA)
This allows an attorney to make decisions about someone's health and welfare, but only if they are unable to do it for themselves. No one can make decisions about someone's welfare while they have the ability to do this for themselves. In Scotland, donors may set up Continuing and Welfare Powers of Attorney in a single document.
Witness
Someone who signs a Power of Attorney form to confirm they have witnessed the donor or the attorney signing and dating the Power of Attorney.

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