Estate administration and wills legal glossary
QualitySolicitors believe in providing clear information, without using confusing legal jargon. The law in plain English is a tool to help translate legal jargon into modern English. It is NOT intended to provide “full technical legal definitions” but simply to give a practical plain English meaning.
When someone dies there are a number of arrangements and legal tasks which need to be completed, quite often the language used and the related legalities can be confusing. That’s why we believe in providing clear advice that’s easy to understand, without all the legal jargon. Here we’ve translated some of the legal terms often used when talking to lawyers into plain English.
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- AccrueBe added to/gather
- AdducePut forward.
- AdministratorSomeone appointed by the court to take personal legal responsibility for distributing the property and possessions of the person who has died without leaving a valid will. It will usually be the closest blood relative.
- AffidavitA document where the law requires the person making a document to confirm what they have said is true. This is confirmed in front of a solicitor or other qualified professional.
- AffirmationA promise made by someone who is not religious, that their evidence will be the truth. This is promised in front of a judge, solicitor or other qualified professional.
- AgreementWhere two or more people or businesses, reach a shared view on a set of facts or what will happen. It does not need to be in writing. It will usually be binding if one side gives something (such as money) in exchange for receiving something in return.
- AssetsEverything a person or business owns; their money (cash, savings and investments), business interests, property and possessions.
- Attorney or attorneysThe named representative (or representatives) who has been given legal authority to deal with specified matters (such as finances and property) on behalf of another person. The attorney is usually appointed in a document such as a lasting power of attorney.
- AuthorityFormal permission given by someone (or the court) to take action on behalf of someone else.
- BankruptcyThe legal status of a person or business who is unable to repay the debts it owes to others (its creditors).
- BarristerA type of lawyer who usually specialises in court room representation, drafting court documents and providing expert legal opinions.
- BeneficiaryA person who is entitled to benefit from something such as a gift or other benefit left to them in a will or in a ‘trust’ (or under the ‘intestacy rules’ if there is no valid will).
- BeneficiaryPerson receiving a benefit or gift.
- Bi annualTwice a year
- BiennialEvery two years
- CaseLegal claim or legal transaction.
- CaveatWarning or exception.
- Certificate of capacityThis is the confirmation given by a certificate provider that the person making a lasting power of attorney (LPA) understands the powers they are giving to someone else and has the necessary mental capacity at the time. They will also make sure the person has not been pressurised into making the LPA.
- Certificate providerTo protect the interests of the person making a lasting power of attorney (LPA), a certificate provider will need to satisfy themselves that the person understands the powers they are giving to someone else and has the necessary mental capacity at the time. They will also make sure the person has not been pressurised into making the LPA. The certificate provider could be their solicitor, doctor or another independent person they have known personally for at least two years.
- ChronologyA summary of the main events relevant to a dispute. They are set out in date order.
- CiteMention or quote.
- Co-respondentAny other person involved in the situation that led someone to get a divorce. Perhaps the person who had an improper relationship with their partner.
- Codicil Addition made to and existing will.
- CompensationThe financial remedy claimed from the person or business that caused a dispute for their loss, injury or suffering. The amount payable (if anything) will either be resolved by negotiation or be awarded by a judge. It is usually calculated to be the amount of money needed to put the person claiming, back in the situation they were in before the dispute. It is also known as ‘damages’.
- Consent orderAn agreement reached between the parties of a dispute that a judge then approves. This means that neither side can simply ignore it, without any comeback. Being an order of the court there are legal consequences if either side does not follow the terms of the agreement.
- ConsiderationAmount paid.
- ContingentDepending on.
- ContractA binding agreement between the people or businesses who reach agreement (and usually sign to confirm their agreement). Usually one side gives something (such as money) in exchange for receiving something in return.
- ConveneCall together.
- CounselA barrister – a type of lawyer who usually specialises in court room representation, drafting court documents and providing expert legal opinions.
- Court of protectionThe court responsible for deciding how to protect the interests of a person who does not have the mental capacity to make their own decisions. It can:
-Decide whether a person has the mental capacity to make particular decisions for themselves.
-Make declarations, decisions, court orders or even a will on behalf of people who lack the mental capacity.
-Decide whether a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is valid.
-Remove attorneys who fail to carry out their duties.
-Make decisions where there is a dispute as to whether an LPA should be registered.
- CreditorA person or business who is owed money.
- CulpableAt fault or guilty of something.
- CurtailShorten or limit.
- DeceasedThe person who died.
- DefaultFailure to.
- DeferPut off or delay.
- DenoteShow or indicate.
- DepositAn advance payment of money to show an intention to complete the transaction in accordance with the terms of the contract. Usually you will not get the money refunded if you then pull out of the transaction or do not comply with the contractual terms.
- DeputyWhere there is no lasting power of attorney, a deputy is the person appointed by the court of protection to manage someone's affairs and make decisions for them when they have lost the ability or mental capacity to do this for themselves. This can be needed for a variety of reasons such as developing an illness like Alzheimer's disease or Dementia, or suffering a serious injury such as one to the brain. It is the responsibility of the deputy to act in the best interests of the person who has lost capacity.
- Dis-inheritLeaving someone out from what they might expect to receive on the death of someone else (such as their parent or partner). This can be intentionally achieved in a will. However it is what often unintentionally happens if there is no will. This is because the intestacy rules which apply when there is no will can have surprising results.
- DisbursementAdditional expenses payable to someone other than your lawyer, needed as part of the legal process. For example, taxes, registration fees, local authority fees, court fees and expert charges. They will usually be the same whichever firm you use.
- Discretionary trustA legal device where someone (called a trustee) is given an asset (such as property or money or investments) to protect and look after for the benefit of someone else (called a beneficiary). This could be to save tax or because the beneficiary is not able to look after the asset themselves (perhaps they are under 18). With a discretionary trust the terms will permit the trustee (or trustees) to choose how to use the trust’s income and sometimes the capital.
- DomicileLegal definition of the country a person is treated as living in.
- DomicileThe country you treat as your permanent home. The country where you usually live when you are not on holiday, visiting relatives or working abroad.
- DonorThe person who appoints a named representative (called an attorney) to deal with specified matters (such as finances and property) on their behalf in a document such as a lasting power of attorney.
- ElucidateExplain or clarify.
- EngrossmentThe preparation of a final version of a document that covers all agreed amendments.
- ErroneousWrong or mistaken.
- EstateThe balance of a person’s assets after any obligations (such as bills, loans and mortgage) have been paid.
- Estate accountsThis is the official record of the administration of an estate by an executor or administrator (or their solicitor). This will detail all the assets collected in, as well as any money paid out to cover things like debts, paying tax, paying fees and distributing the estate.
- Estate administration/administration of the estate The legal process of collecting in, valuing and distributing all of a person’s money, possessions and property after they have died. This includes paying any inheritance tax due.
- ExecutorThis is the person or business (such as solicitors) named in a will to take legal and financial responsibility to ensure the wishes of the person who died are carried out in accordance with the will. There can be more than one.
- ExecutrixThis is the woman named in a will to take legal and financial responsibility to ensure the wishes of the person who died are carried out in accordance with the will. There can be more than one. Sometimes the term ‘executor’ is used instead for women as well as men who are appointed in the will.
- ExemplaryGood example.
- ExpediteSpeed up.
- Fair copyFinal copy.
- Form of authorityAn agreement where someone (for example a client) signs it to give permission to someone else (for example a solicitor) to take action on their behalf.
- FraudActing in a way that will mislead others in order to receive a financial benefit or other personal gain. The main examples are through false statements or documents or withholding information.
- Grant of letters of administrationThis is the official order of the court which appoints a person or people to take personal legal responsibility for distributing the property and possessions of the person who has died, where there is no valid will.
- Grant of probateThis is the official order of the court allowing the person or people appointed in a will to take legal responsibility for carrying out its terms.
- Grant or grant of representation This is the official order of the court which appoints a person or people to take personal legal responsibility for distributing the property and possessions of the person who has died. This is called either a grant of probate (if there was a will) or a grant of letters of administration (if there was no will).
- HenceforthFrom now on.
- HMRC or Her Majesty’s Revenue and CustomsThis is the UK government body which collects the taxes and duties payable under the laws made by Parliament. It used to be called the Inland Revenue.
- IndemnifyFully protect against suffering a loss or paying the compensation due to someone else.
- IndemnityThe compensation paid to someone else or the protection given against suffering a loss.
- InheritTo receive a gift or a more substantial share of the money, property or possessions of someone who has died.
- Inheritance taxThis is the tax payable when someone dies. The amount payable depends on the size of the estate. This can be a complex area where specific advice should be taken as (for example) married couples and those in a registered civil partnership can transfer their unused tax-free allowance to benefit the other.
- InsolventBeing unable to pay the debts due to someone else or where a person’s or business’s ‘financial liabilities’ are greater than their ‘assets’.
- InstructionsGiving someone authority to act on someone else’s behalf. An example is a client authorising a lawyer to represent them.
- IntegrityActing honestly and with morals.
- Inter aliaAmong other things.
- Intestacy rulesThese are the legal rules that determine what happens to the possessions, property, and children of a person who dies without leaving a valid will.
- IntestateThe name given to someone who dies without leaving a valid will.
- InvalidDoes not comply with the applicable rules and so it does not have legal force. It is not effective and is not binding.
- Issue feeThe fee charged by the government (payable to HMCTS) for starting the court or tribunal process for resolving a dispute. People on very low incomes or receiving certain state benefits can apply to not pay court fees.
- JurisdictionThe legal district that applies to a legal case. England and Wales is one jurisdiction. Scotland is another and Northern Ireland is another. Often different rules and laws apply in each jurisdiction.
- Lack of mental capacityNot having the ability to make decisions. This might be because of illness, injury, a learning disability, or mental health problems.
- Lasting power of attorney or LPAThe legal authority given to a named representative (called an ‘attorney’) to deal with specified matters (such as finances, medical treatment and living arrangements) on behalf of another person (called a ‘donor’). It will usually only take effect if the donor loses the mental capacity needed to make those decisions for themselves.
- Law firmAn organisation which employs lawyers to provide legal advice and legal services – such as the independent QualitySolicitors firms of solicitors.
- LawyerA solicitor, barrister, licensed conveyancer, legal executive, notary, para-legal, patent attorney, legal clerk, legal advisor, trademark attorney, or trainee who provides legal advice and provides legal services.
- Legal feesThe cost of sorting out a legal matters, including the charges of a solicitor and any additional charges needed (disbursements).
- Legal matterA legal transaction or legal case.
- Legal ombudsman or LeOAn independent body who deals with complaints about poor legal services of lawyers and law firms in England and Wales.
- Legal servicesServices provided to the clients of law firms such as one-off legal advice, full representation with a case or transaction and representation at court.
- Liability or liabilitiesResponsibility. This is used in two senses:
•Financial responsibility – to pay tax, debts and loans such as a mortgage.
•Legal responsibility – such as the legal blame for causing harm to someone else.
- Lump sum paymentA one off payment agreed to be paid to settle all or part of a dispute, rather than regular monthly or annual payments being made.
- Mental capacity The ability to make decisions for yourself; being able to:
-Understand the information that is relevant to the decision.
-Remember the information long enough to be able to make the decision.
-Weigh up the information available to make the decision.
-Communicate the decision (this can be by speaking, using sign language, or perhaps through blinking an eye or squeezing a hand).
- Mirror willsA couple cannot have one will to cover them both. Each person has to have a separate will. A couple can each have a ‘mirror will’ that make identical arrangements for each other.
- Negotiate or negotiationsOff the record discussions between the two sides of a dispute or transaction. The aim is to reach an agreement that protects your position. Legal negotiations are usually carried out by each side’s lawyers. They can be in writing, by phone or at a ‘face to face’ meeting. When the negotiations relate to a dispute, then the aim is to also avoid the delays, expense and stress of taking the dispute to a court hearing. Any offers made or points accepted (for the purpose of the dispute negotiations) remain private and cannot be referred to in court.
- OathA declaration of truth made by a person with a religious belief. It is made in front of a judge, solicitor or other qualified professional.
- ObligationA legal requirement to take a particular type of action.
- Office of the public guardian or OPGThe government department responsible for the registration of lasting power of attorneys and monitoring the actions of attorneys.
- Ordinary power of attorneyA temporary legal authority (perhaps to cover a period working abroad) where a named representative (called an ‘attorney’) is authorised to act on behalf of another person (called a ‘donor’). This can cover all financial affairs or only specified matters (for example, to operate a bank account, to buy and sell property or change investments). It must not be used if the donor has or is likely to lose their mental capacity. Then a lasting power of attorney should be prepared whilst the donor still has mental capacity.
- Out of court settlementAn agreement reached by those involved in a dispute, usually after negotiations. The agreement is reached before the court makes a final decision.
- Per annumEvery year.
- Periodic paymentsRegular payments, often each month or year. They can be agreed or be ordered by the court to resolve all or part of a dispute.
- Power of attorneyThe legal authority given to a named representative (called an ‘attorney’) to deal with specified matters (such as finances and property) on behalf of another person (called a ‘donor’) who has appointed them.
- PrecedentPrevious legal decision.
- Prima facieSomething that, subject to checking, appears to be true.
- Pro rataAt the same rate.
- ProbateThe permission and authority granted by the court (Probate Registry) to someone so they can distribute the money, possessions and property of a person who has died, in accordance with their will.
- Probate registry or probate courtThis is the court which decides who will manage the estate of the person who died (when there is no dispute). It has the power to issue a grant to enable the person or people appointed to distribute the person’s assets in accordance with the will or, if there is no will, the intestacy rules.
- RemissionA reduction. With court fees it means a reduction or even that no court fees are payable (if you are on a very low income or receive certain state benefits).
- Remuneration or remuneratePay or salary.
- RepresentationThis is when you have agreed for someone else to act on your behalf to present your views. Legal representation is instructing a solicitor to provide on-going support and advice throughout a legal case or transaction (and is different from the one-off help).
- RestitutionPayment for loss.
- RiskThe chance that a decision or choice might result in a loss or damage. With disputes the ‘litigation risk’ is the chance that a court might award compensation lower than has been offered by the other side.
- Small claimA dispute with another person or business where the amount at issue is under £10,000. It could be a faulty product or item bought from a shop or online. It could be a service provided by a shop or perhaps builder or garage where the quality of the work was not good enough or caused damage. It could just be that someone owes you money. There is a special small claims court process for dealing with disputes where an ‘out of court’ agreement has not proved possible.
- SolicitorA type of qualified lawyer who usually provides specialist legal advice and also representation (support throughout a case or transaction). Using a solicitor or firm of solicitors provides their clients with the protection that a solicitor must act with honesty, morality, independence and in the best interests of their client. They must also have full insurance to protect clients against errors.
- Statement of truthWith some legal documents, the person completing them is often asked to sign a ‘statement of truth’ where they confirm the information they have given is true. There are legal consequences (fines or even imprisonment) if it is later shown the person lied or provided intentionally misleading information.
- Statutory declarationA written declaration of truth, which has to be made in front of a solicitor or other qualified professional.
- Subsequent toAfter.
- Swearing an oathMaking a declaration of truth whilst holding the appropriate religious book (such as the Bible or Koran). It is made in front of a judge, solicitor or other qualified professional. People without a religious belief can choose to make an ‘affirmation’ of the truth.
- TestatorMan who made a will.
- TestatrixWoman who made a will.
- TrialA hearing at court in front of a judge. Both sides to the dispute get an opportunity to present their case and evidence. This usually includes witnesses giving evidence at court (with the judge and the other side being given the chance to ask them questions). The judge will then decide the on the facts and decide what outcome is appropriate as a result. In a few situations the deciding of the facts is made by a jury.
- TrustA legal device where someone (called a trustee) is given an asset (such as property, money or investments) to protect and look after (following specified instructions) for the benefit of someone else (called a beneficiary). This could be to save tax or because the beneficiary is not able to look after the asset themselves (perhaps they are under 18).
- TrusteeA person given an asset (such as property or money or investments) to protect and look after (following specified instructions) for the benefit of someone else (called a beneficiary). The trustee becomes the legal owner of the asset until a specified event when it goes to the beneficiary.
- UndertakingA promise to do or stop doing something, made to someone else who relies on it. It does not need to be in writing. When given by a solicitor as part of a legal case they must fulfil or comply with the promise. If not, the courts will enforce compliance and the solicitor can face disciplinary action for failing to honour it.
- ValuationAssessing the financial value of something. This could be the price a property could be expected to achieve or how much compensation a claimant might be awarded by a court.
- WaiveGive up.
- WillA document where the person preparing it decides what will happen to their money, property and possessions after they die. It has to be written very clearly so it is interpreted in the way the person wants. It can also be written to make sure the inheritance tax payable is no more than it needs to be. To have legal force (so that it is ‘valid’ and followed) it must comply with the strict rules on how it is signed and witnessed.