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When making a Will, or planning your Estate, you are likely to come across some jargon which you may find confusing. Below is a list of words which you are most likely to come across with their definitions.


Has similar duties to those of an executor for estates where:

  • There is no Will
  • The will does not appoint an executor
  • The names executor is unable or unwilling to act

There are court rules which govern who may apply to act as administrator.


Any person, or organisation who receives from a Will or trust.


A short document which amends the terms of an existing Will.


The assets that you own which can be left under your Will.

Executor and Trustees

A person, persons or company named in a Will to be responsible for carrying out the terms of the Will and settling taxes and debts. If you want to put money or assets in trust for children the executors / trustees will be responsible for managing this sum. You should consider appointing more than one executor and trustee in these circumstances, especially if a professional executor / trustee is not acting. Executors must be 18 or over and should be capable of dealing with complex issues.

Grant of probate

A document issued by the court confirming both the validity of a Will and the executor's right to administer the estate.


These are people who will look after your children (if under 18 years of age) at the time of your death. Guardians must be 18 or over.

Inheritance Tax (IHT)

A tax calculated on the value of your assets when you die. Subject to certain exemptions/relief, this is charged at 40% above £312,000 (at April 2008). A legacy to charity is free of inheritance tax.


An estate where there is no Will and the law therefore directs who inherits.


Not having a valid Will, or a person who has not made a Will.


A gift in a Will which you wish to leave a person or organisation upon death. There are several types of legacy including:

  • A specific legacy: e.g. my gold necklace to my sister
  • A money legacy: e.g. £3,000 to my grandson
  • A residual legacy: e.g. a gift of the remainder of money or assets
  • A life interest: e.g. to my wife for her use in her lifetime, then to charity
  • A conditional interest: e.g. a legacy which is dependant upon an event or specified criteria being met.
Letters of administration

As for a grant of probate, but issued to an administrator.

Mirror will

A Will which contains almost identical terms to your Will.

Many spouses/partners have mirror Wills in which they leave their estate to the same beneficiaries named in both Wills to benefit on the death of the surviving spouse/partner. The survivor can however still change the terms of their Will after the death of the first to pass away.

Power of Attorney (POA)

Powers of Attorney allow you to appoint somebody to look after your affairs should you no longer be willing to deal with them yourself. Some types of power also allow the attorney to continue to deal with your affairs should you become incapable of dealing with them yourself.


Having a valid Will.


In this connection, property means all assets, not just land. See estate.


In this connection, property means all assets, not just land. See estate.


A written arrangement whereby an appointed trustee is given money or assets to hold and manage for the benefit of those defined in the deed or will which created the trust.


A company, or individuals, appointed in a Will or the trust deed to hold the trust assets and to be responsible for the management of a trust.


A written document which when properly executed controls how a person's assets are to be dealt with after their death. If improperly executed, the document may not constitute a Will.