Legalese explained!

Confused by legal mumbo jumbo?

The jargon can be confusing so here is our A-Z guide to shed some light on the key terms linked to wills, estate administration and elderly care.


Administration means managing the affairs (estate) of a person who has died. This includes the collection and distribution of an estate’s assets as stated in a will or, when no will exists, according to testacy rules.

Administration period is the time taken from the date of death to completion of an estate’s administration.

Administrator is the person appointed by law to administer an estate when someone dies without a will.

Assets include everything owned by a person who has died. If that person is domiciled in England and Wales, their assets worldwide will be included in their estate.

Attestation is the witnessing of a signature

Beneficiary is a person entitled to a share of an estate.

Bequest  is a gift of a particular object or cash as opposed to land or buildings.

Capital gains tax  (CGT) is a tax on profit made on the sale of an asset.

Certificate provider is the person chosen to verify that someone undertaking a lasting power of attorney has acted independently and not been unduly influenced. The provider can be a professional such as a doctor or solicitor or someone who has known the donor for more than two years.

Chargeable gift is given in a will on which tax may have to be paid.

Chattels are movable personal property not used for business such as a TV, sofa, cooker, jewellery, wine, pictures - and even cars and horses.

Children covers all legitimate children (parents married at the time of birth), illegitimate children (parents not married at the time of birth), legitimated children (parents not married at the time of birth but do so later), and adopted children.

Codicil is an addition or change made to your will - it has to be signed and witnessed in the same way as your will.

Coroner is a doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating deaths, who will in certain cases issue an interim death certificate pending any investigations into a person’s death.

Court of Protection governs and supervises applications for a person to be appointed a court deputy.

Deed of Variation is a document that alters a will or the provisions of intestacy after a person has died.

Discretionary trust is where a trustee has full power to decide when and which members of a group of Beneficiaries are to receive their capital.

Deputy is a person appointed by the Court of Protection to manage a person's affairs when they are unable to do so themselves.

Donor is a person making a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Estate describes the real and personal property, money, investments, savings and personal possessions of a person who has died

Executor is the person appointed in a will to administer an estate. You can have a maximum of four executors. Executors can be a beneficiary to a will.

Grant of Letters of Administration is a legal document issued by the probate registry, which allows administrators to administer the estate. A grant is issued where a person dies without a will or where a will exists but the executors may have died or been unable to act as an executor.

Grant of Probate is a legal document issued by the probate registry to appoint the executor(s) named in the will as the person(s) legally able to address the administration of the estate.

Grant of Representation is a high court order to obtain a grant of probate or grant of administration; and the personal representative is then free to administer and distribute the estate.

Guardian is the individual appointed under a will to look after the minor children of the deceased person.

Inheritance tax (IHT) describes the tax that may be payable on an estate when someone dies.

Intestacy is the situation when a person dies without making a will; specific laws then determine who benefits from an estate.

Intestate describes a person who dies without a will.

Issue means “living”, direct bloodline descendants.

Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPA) is a legal document registered with the Office of the Public Guardian that appoints a person to manage another person’s property and financial affairs and personal welfare.

Legacy is a gift left in a will, and there are generally three types:

  • A specific legacy is a specific property or object such as “my car”;
  • A pecuniary legacy is a gift of a specific sum of money such as £500;
  • A residuary legacy is a gift of money or assets left over when all other legacies and expenses have been paid.

Liabilities are the debts that have to be settled by the estate after a person dies, such as funeral expenses, loans, credit cards, income tax, and utility bills.

Oath is a pledge, to tell the truth, often calling upon God as a witness

Office of the Public Guardian is the government office responsible for applications to register lasting powers of attorneys.

Personal representative is the person entitled to deal with someone’s estate.

Probate is the procedure of administering an estate up to and including the application of the grant of probate.

Probate registry is a court within the high court’s family division that ensures a will is valid and the applicant is entitled to handle the estate.

Residuary beneficiary Is the person(s) entitled to receive a share of any residue of an estate, under the terms of the will or on intestacy.

Residue is the element of an estate left after any specific gifts for money are made and after deduction of an estate’s liabilities such as funeral expenses and inheritance tax.

Renunciation is when an executor decides they are unwilling or unable to act an executor

Testator is a person making a will. He or she must be over 18 years of age and of sound mind at the time of making their will.

Testatrix is a female testator.

Trust is an arrangement set up by will or deed. Trustees are appointed and given money or assets to hold and manage for defined beneficiaries.

Trustee is a person appointed under a will. They are responsible for managing any trust that arises out of a will. Generally, they will exercise their duties when assets are held in trust for beneficiaries under 18.

Witnesses - two of them always have to be present to verify the signature of the testator on his or her will. They have to sign the will at the same time as each other and the testator.

Will is a legal document which sets out a testator’s wishes as to how their estate is to be distributed on their death. A will has to be executed correctly following the Rules of Execution.