Glossary

Need to brush up on your legal terminology? Here we have created a full glossary of the legal terms you’re likely to come across during the process of working with us.

A

Administration of the estate

The process of gathering information relating to the assets and debts of someone who has died, paying all outstanding debts and distributing the remaining assets as per the Will (if there is one) or intestacy rules (if there isn’t).

Administrator

A personal representative of someone who has died without leaving a Will. The administrator is responsible for administering the estate.

Advance decision

A legal document used to specify situations where someone would wish to refuse certain types of medical treatment or care in the future.

Advance statement

A document  similar to an advance decision, that isn’t legally binding. It can be used to set out wishes regarding future care and/or medical treatment.  

Affidavit

A written statement of fact that is witnessed and signed by a solicitor.

Applicant

Someone making an application to the Court of Protection to be appointed as a Deputy and/or for permission to make a specific decision on behalf of someone else.

Attorney

Someone who is appointed in a Power of Attorney to act on the donor’s behalf.

B

Barrister

A type of lawyer who works with your solicitor, provides formal advice and speaks on your behalf in court.

Beneficiary

An individual or organisation who stands to inherit something in a Will or by virtue of the intestacy rules. A beneficiary can also be someone entitled to receive property, money or other assets from a trust.

C

Capacity

This is often referred to as ‘mental capacity’ and is the ability to make informed decisions independently. To be considered to have capacity, a person must be judged able to understand and fully weigh up information relevant to their decision. In England and Wales, capacity is governed by the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Care Act 2014

This act replaced most existing legislation on adult social care. It covers a wide range of issues affecting elderly people, their family and carers. This includes the role of local authorities, how care needs are assessed, standards of care and the safeguarding of elderly and vulnerable people.

Certainty

The National Will Register.

Certified copy

A photocopy of an original document (such as a passport or certificate) that has been signed by a solicitor to confirm it is an exact copy of the original.

Chattels

Any personal possessions an individual owns that are not land or buildings. This includes clothing, technology, art, jewellery, pets and vehicles.

Claimant

Someone making a claim or asking a court to make a decision.

Claudia’s Law

Another term for the Guardianship Act 1975, named after missing York resident Claudia Lawrence.

Codicil

An official alteration to a Will, recorded in a separate document.

Contentious probate

The area of the law that deals with inheritance disputes and challenges to wills.

Counsel

Another word for a barrister.

Court of Protection

An office of the High Court that has the power to make decisions about the property, financial affairs, healthcare and general welfare of individuals who don’t have the mental capacity to do so themselves. The Court of Protection has the power to appoint deputies and decide whether an individual still has the capacity to make their own decisions.

D

Deed of Name Change

A legal document made to confirm a change of name.

Deed of Partial Revocation

A legal document made by a donor to remove an Attorney from a Power of Attorney without revoking the rest of the Power of Attorney.

Deed of Variation

A legal document that allows a beneficiary to redirect all or part of their inheritance to the other beneficiaries of the estate.

Defendant

Someone against whom a claim is being made, or who is asking a court to make a different decision.

Deputy

A person appointed by the Court of Protection to make decisions and act on behalf of someone who no longer has the capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Digital assets

Digital belongings such as photos, files, graphics, cryptocurrency and accounts.

Discretionary trust

A trust where none of the beneficiaries have an automatic right to any of the assets. Instead, the trustees will decide when to distribute assets or income from the trust, and how much a beneficiary will receive, if anything.

Domicile

The country that an individual is considered to reside in by law.

Donor

Someone who makes a Power of Attorney.

E

Elder abuse

The intent to harm, harm without intent or neglect (wilful or otherwise) of an elderly person, either physically, emotionally or financially.

Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA)

An older type of Lasting Power of Attorney. These can still be used if made before October 2007.

Estate

Everything that belongs to a person. This includes money in bank accounts, property and personal belongings, along with all their debts.

Executor

A personal representative appointed in a Will to deal with the administration of an estate.

F

File

The formal process of sending a claim to a court for them to deal with.

Fraudulent calumny

Illegally influencing a testator to cut someone out of their Will by telling them untruths about that person.

G

General Powers of Attorney

A type of Power of Attorney that allows an individual to delegate all their functions to an attorney, a group of attorneys or a corporate body.

Give, devise and bequeath

A formal way of saying a testator gives something to someone in its entirety with no restrictions.

Grant of Representation

A collective term used to refer both to grants of probate (in cases where there is a Will) and grants of administration (in cases where there isn’t a Will).

Guardian (children)

A person who is appointed in a Will or by the Court to care for a child after the death of their parents.

Guardian (missing person)

A person who has been appointed by the Court to look after a missing person’s property and finances whilst they are missing.

Guardianship Act 2017

The law that allows someone to be appointed as a guardian on behalf of a close family member who has been missing for more than 90 days.

I

Inheritance Act 1975

The legislation used to determine who has the right to make an inheritance claim against an estate, and what they might be entitled to if they do.

Inheritance tax (IHT)

The tax payable on an estate if the estate is worth more than the nil rate band.

Intestacy rules

The laws that govern how a person’s estate is administered when there is no Will.

Intestate

When a person dies without leaving a valid Will.

Issue (contested probate)

A court’s formal acceptance of a claim, when it is stamped with an official stamp and sent to all parties involved.

Issue (Wills)

Any descendants, e.g. children and grandchildren.

L

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)

The type of Power of Attorney that has been in use since October 2007.

Legatee

Another word for beneficiary.

Life interest trust

A trust that gives an individual the right to inherit the use of income of an asset, but only while they are alive. This means they never own the asset and can’t benefit from the sale of it, give it away or leave it to someone in their own Will.

Life sustaining treatment

Any treatment that will keep someone alive, without which they might die. This could be anything from a course of antibiotics to tube-feeding or a ventilator.

Life tenant

Someone who is the beneficiary of a property (though the term can sometimes apply to other types of asset), but only whilst they are alive. This means they can live in the property, but can’t sell it, give it away or leave it to someone in their own Will.

Limitation

The last date by which someone is allowed to file a claim with the Court. These are set by various acts of parliament and will be different depending on the facts of the claim.

Living Will

A term sometimes used for advance decisions and advance statements.

M

Mediator

A third-party neutral professional who assists all parties in exploring solutions to a dispute.

Mental capacity

Another term for capacity.

Mental Capacity Act 2005

An act that applies to anyone in England or Wales who is involved in the care, treatment or support of an individual who is unable to make some or all decisions for themselves. This includes attorneys and deputies, who will have to agree to abide by the principles in this act.

Missing person

Someone who has been gone from their usual place of residence with no contact for more than 90 days.

N

National Will Register

A national organisation that registers wills made in the UK along with the name of the solicitor who is storing them. The National Will Register is also known as ‘Certainty’.

Nil rate band

The amount of money set by the government that can pass to beneficiaries without any inheritance tax being due.

O

Oath

A formal document that sets out why a specific person is entitled to deal with someone’s estate and the assets that are in the estate.

Office of the Public Guardian (OPG)

The governmental body who checks, registers and monitors EPAs and LPAs. Together with the Court of Protection, the OPG protect people in England and Wales who don’t have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Ordinary Powers of Attorney

A Power of Attorney document that allows an individual to delegate their financial affairs to an attorney. An Ordinary Power of Attorney is different to an LPA as it is only valid when the donor has mental capacity.

P

Parties

All people or organisations that are involved in a claim.

Patient

Someone about whom the Court of Protection is being asked to make a decision.

People to be served/notified

A strict list of people who must be served with and/or notified of any application that is made to a court.

Personal representative

The person (or people) who will deal with the legal formalities of an estate. They will assess assets and liabilities, make sure any taxes are paid and distribute the estate. They can also be referred to as executors (if they have been appointed in a Will) or administrators (if they are administering an estate without a Will).

Potential beneficiary

Someone who is named in a trust (or falls into a particular category of people who are named in the trust – e.g. ‘grandchildren’) and may receive something, but is not guaranteed or entitled to anything.

Power of Attorney

A legal document that allows an individual to appoint someone else (or a group of people) to make decisions on their behalf should they lose mental capacity.

Power reserved

When one or more personal representatives do not want to act on behalf of an estate at present but want to retain the option to act in the future.

Presumption of death

A declaration made by the High Court that someone is more likely than not to have died. This declaration can be made when someone has been missing for more than seven years, or when there is a clear reason to believe they are no longer alive.

Probate

A legal grant issued by the Probate Registry confirming that the executors have the authority to deal with the testator’s estate. The term ‘probate’ is also often used to refer to the process of winding up an estate and applying for a grant.

Proceedings

All the paperwork and procedure that applies to any claim once it is in the hands of a court.

Proprietary estoppel

A legal term to describe a situation where a promise about a Will, which has been relied on, has been broken.

R

Reasonable provision

A concept relating to the Inheritance Act 1975 that determines whether or not certain individuals have been adequately provided for by an estate.

Registration (Powers of Attorney)

The process of sending an LPA or EPA to the Office of the Public Guardian for them to add to their register. The register is public and anyone can request information from it.

Renounce probate

When someone formally gives up all rights to apply for a Grant of Representation and/or act as a personal representative of an estate.

Revoke (Wills and Powers of Attorney)

To cancel and/or replace one or more existing wills and/or Powers of Attorney.

S

Serve

The formal procedure of sending documents to another person or party involved in an application. Strict timescales can apply.

Statutory declaration

A written statement of fact that is witnessed and signed by a solicitor.

Statutory Will

A Will that is put together on behalf of someone who no longer has testamentary capacity, and is approved by the Court of Protection.

Swear

The process of formally signing an oath. Individuals can swear on the holy book of their choice. Alternatively, they can choose to affirm.

T

Tax planning

Making preparations to ensure an estate will not be subject to more than the appropriate level of inheritance tax.

Testamentary capacity

Being of sufficiently sound mind to make a Will.

Testator

Someone who has made a Will. A female testator is sometimes referred to as a ‘testatrix’.

Trust

A legal mechanism for money or property from an estate to be held on behalf of a beneficiary or group of beneficiaries.

Trustee

A person who has been appointed to manage a trust on behalf of the named beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries. They are responsible for ensuring the terms of the trust are followed correctly and for making decisions about when or how the contents of the trust are distributed.

Trust property/fund

Any land, buildings, money or other assets that are held in trust.

W

Will

A legal document made by an individual to set out how their estate should be distributed after their death.