Donate Refer

Glossary of terms

Legal language can sometimes be confusing. To make it just that little bit easier, here is a list of the more common terms you are likely to come across. 

Administrator

The person appointed by the court to administer your affairs if you do not leave a Will.

Assets

All your money, goods and possessions.

Beneficiary

Any person or organisation named in your Will who will receive a legacy or bequest (gift). 

Bequest / legacy

A gift of money, property or other asset in a Will.

Codicil

An additional document to your existing Will, making a simple change. It must also be drawn up legally and be witnessed.

Conditional legacy

A gift that will only take effect if a certain event occurs.

Crown

The official term for where your money goes if you die without leaving a Will and without any next of kin. In practice, this means the HMRC.

Estate

The total sum of your possessions, property and money (minus debts) left after your death.

Executor (male) / Executrix (female)

Someone you appoint to carry out the instructions in your Will. The Executors can be a solicitor, trust company, bank, charity or a friend or family member. Up to four Executors can act, and quite often the main beneficiary of your estate is named as an Executor.

Inheritance Tax  (IHT)

A tax charged if the value of your Estate is above a certain limit.  Inheritance Tax is set by the government which may be payable on death depending on the value of the estate and intended beneficiaries. Most people do not pay IHT due to the Nil Rate Band (currently the first £325,000 of your estate) and spouses are also exempt.

Furthermore, charities are also exempt from IHT so it is possible to give your whole estate to charity without paying any IHT or reducing the IHT with a bequest to charity. For more information please see our guide to Inheritance Tax.

Intestate

To have died without having made a Will or without a valid Will.

Legacy

A bequest or gift left in your Will. It can be in the form of money, property, stocks and shares or possessions.

Legator

Someone who has left a legacy in their Will.

Liabilities

Obligations (debts) which may need to be settled after you death.

Mirror Wills

This is when a husband, wife or partner make almost identical Wills leaving for example, everything to each other should one partner die, and if both die together then direct to another agreed beneficiary.

Pecuniary legacy/bequest

A gift of a fixed sum of money in your Will.

Pledge

To promise a gift (not legally binding).

Probate

The legal procedure after death, which confirms your Will is valid and confirms the executors’ authority to carry out your wishes.

It’s the first step in the legal process of administering the estate of the deceased, resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property under a Will.

Residue

The remainder of your Estate after all the debts have been paid and all your pecuniary and specific bequests have been made.

Residuary legacy/bequest

A gift of the remainder of your Estate after all other bequests have been made and debts cleared.

Restricted Fund

Monies or property required to be held for a specific project or cause, rather than for the general funds of a charity.

Specific legacy

A gift of a particular item, such as property, antiques, jewellery and shares.

Testator / Testatrix

The person who has made the Will.

Trustee

If your Will sets up a trust (for example a life interest trust), the trustees will be the people or organisations specified in your Will to manage the trust property according to the terms of the trust for the benefit of its beneficiaries, once the administration of the rest of your estate has been completed.

Their role is similar to the Executors of your estate and often, at least initially, will be your Executors.

Will

A legal document by which the testator states what they want to happen with their estate following their death.