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Confused About Will Writing and Estate Planning Terminology?

In order to help you through the maze of Will Writing and Estate Planning technical Terms. Mind At Rest Wills have put together an A to Z glossary of the most common legal terms used in writing your Wills and Trusts, we hope you find it useful.


This is someone who is appointed by law to deal with the affairs of the person who has died. An administrator could be appointed because the person who died did not have a Will or they had a Will but did not appoint an Executor or the person appointed does not wish to act


These are valuable possessions you own. The most valuable asset is more than likely to be your home but will also include your money and personal possessions.


This is anyone who is referenced to benefit from a Will or a Trust.


A gift left in a Will, which can be money or a personal possession, but not land or property.

Bona Vacantia

‘Bona Vacantia’ means vacant goods and is the name given to ownerless property, which by law passes to the Crown. The Treasury Solicitor acts for the Crown to administer the estates of people who die intestate (without a Will) and without known kin (entitled blood relatives) and collect the assets of dissolved companies and other various ownerless goods in England and Wales.

Capital gains tax

This is a tax you pay when you sell or give away an asset worth more than £6,000. The tax is calculated on the gain made on the value of an asset when you dispose of it. Some of your assets are exempt from capital gains tax.


These are movable personal items you own such as; jewellery, furniture, pieces of art and cars.


It’s a means of making amendments/changes to an existing Will.


This is another name for the Government or State. If someone dies intestate without a Will and there is no family, the Estate goes to the Crown.

Deed of Variation

A beneficiary on receipt of an inheritance is able by Law to vary the inheritance they have received. The beneficiary is able to do this within 2 years of the date of death of the deceased. This is called a ‘Deed of Variation.


Originally meant a posthumous grant but has come to be applied commonly to a conveyance that is made for a definitive term, such as an estate for a term of years. A lease is a common example, and demise is sometimes used synonymously with “lease” or “let.”


Anybody who is dependent on you for care or financial support, for example, Children, spouse, Civil Partner or Elderly relatives


A gift of house or land, giving real property by a Will.


A person’s domicile is typically their country of birth or origin and is determined on their death by a number of factors.


The terminology estate is everything you own at the time of your death, less what you owe. (The ‘net’ estate is the estate less what is owed. The ‘net estate’)


Executors are people you choose to give the responsibility to administer your affairs and wishes as stated in your Will during probate. “Executor” is the male term and “Executrix” is the female term. Can also be referred to as “Personal Representative”.


These are people chosen by you and named in your Will to look after your minor children on your death.

Inheritance Tax (IHT)

This is a tax paid on your estate after you die. However, everyone is allowed to leave an amount before inheritance tax is payable. The current 2013 / 2014 inheritance tax threshold is £325,000. Inheritance tax is payable at 40% on the value of the estate which exceeds the inheritance tax threshold.


These are the Laws that determine who would benefit from the estate because the deceased didn’t make a Will.

Issue / Remote Issue

Issue refers to children and Remote Issue refers to grandchildren,

Joint tenants

This is a type of ownership on a property. For example, if a couple owns a house together and purchased it jointly they are known as joint tenants. If a joint owner dies then the surviving owner(s) becomes the owner of the asset purely through survivorship. The Will of the deceased does not control where the deceased share is distributed.

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA’s)

This is a legal way to give someone else the powers to handle your finances and welfare if you become incapable of doing so yourself. There are different types of powers of attorney.


Legacies are gifts of specific monetary amounts or specific property/ items that you leave to someone in your Will. These are paid after the debts of the estate are settled and before the residue is distributed.

Letters of Administration

This is a legal document which is issued by the Probate Registry to the administrator of an estate of a person who has died intestate.

Living Will

Sometimes referred to as an Advance Decision or Advance Directive. This is a legal document that allows you to indicate your wish to refuse all or some forms of medical treatment if you lose mental capacity in the future.

Per Stripes

Literally, this means ‘by branch’. The legacy only passes down one branch of the family tree. For example, if a child of the person who made the Will dies, his/her children take their parents’ share rather than it being shared among all surviving grandchildren.

Personal Representative

A term used for both administrators and executors.


‘Probate’ is the process of proving a Will. The Executor or administrator undertakes this role establishing the estate value and the person(s) to benefit from the estate. It is a process that is required if the estate is valued in excess of £5,000.

Probate Registry

This is a Government office that deals with probate and administration, with a principal office in London and regional district registries.


Refers to land and buildings owned by a person.


The residue of your estate includes everything else that you own after all debts, funeral expenses and all legacies and tax has been paid. That is to say, everything you own when you pass away which has not been gifted elsewhere in your will.

Tenants in common

Tenants in Common are one of the ways to own property, by two or more individuals. It determines that each owner owns a specific share. In which case on death, the deceased share can be directed by their Will


This is the person who is writing the Will, referred to as “Testatrix” if they’re female.


A trust is an obligation binding a person (which can be an individual or a company) called a ‘trustee’ to deal with ‘property’ in a particular way, for the benefit of one or more ‘beneficiaries’.

Trust Settlor

The person who settles assets into the trust


Trustees are the people you have chosen to look after any part of your estate that is put into a trust. They are the legal owners of the Trust, legally bound to look after the property of the trust in a particular way and for a particular purpose.

Vested Interest

When a person meets all the conditions of a gift and is absolutely entitled to it, they attain a vested interest.


A Will is a legal document that declares your intentions as to what you would like to happen to your estate when you die. To be valid it needs to be signed by the Testator, witnessed by 2 adults who are NOT Beneficiaries or the spouse of a beneficiary in the presence of the Testator and each other.


A witness is someone who sees you sign the Will. To be valid a Will must have two witnesses who see you sign the Will and you must watch them sign the Will.

Related Links

Deed of Variation
Dying Without A Will
Law Of Intestacy