Wills, Probate and Estate Planning Jargon Buster

We understand that there is alot of terminology used when discussing Wills, Probate and Estate Planning so here is a jargon buster, which we hope will help clarify certain terms and phrases.

Assets – anything owned of value i.e. property and land, cash, savings and investments, valuable items such as paintings, antiques or jewellery.

Beneficiary – a person, body, organisation or institution i.e. relatives, hospital, charity, named in a Will to receive a bequest, property, or gift of money etc.

Bona Vacantia – literally “vacant goods” this is when someone dies without a will and they have no family, their estate passes to the Crown

Chattels – personal belongings i.e. items of furniture, art, antiques, jewellery, watches, car, etc.

Codicil – a legal document that can be used to make minor changes to an existing Will. However, in order for the changes to be valid, the same formalities to make a valid will still apply.

Estate – everything owned in your name, including assets and chattels.

Executor – the person or persons, named in a Will who will administer your estate after your death i.e. ‘execute your Will’.

Grant of probate – the legal document issued to the executors that authorises them to deal with the estate. Without it, the estate i.e. money and property cannot be distributed, in accordance with the Will.

The Inheritance Act 1975 – The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 gives the court power to override a Will and override the effect of the intestacy laws.

IHT- abbreviation for Inheritance Tax.

Inheritance Tax – Inheritance tax (IHT) may become an issue when someone dies. It is a one-off tax paid on the value of the deceased’s estate above a set threshold – currently £325,000 (as at Feb 2013).

Intestate- this is when someone dies without a valid or any Will in place. The estate is distributed according to very strict Rules of Intestacy.

Issue – children, grandchildren, adopted children but not step-children

Joint tenancy – a common arrangement for property owned by two or more people. When one owner dies, their ownership passes to the surviving owner or owners, outside of the Will.

Rules of Intestacy – These rules divide your estate in a pre-determined way between members of your family but may not be in the way that you wish.

Tenants in common – this is different to Joint tenancy, because each separate share of the property can be passed on, and doesn’t automatically go to other joint owners.

Testator – the name given to any male who’s writing a Will, to cover their estate.

Testatrix – the name given to any female, who’s writing a Will, to cover their estate.

Witness – a Will must have two witnesses to the testator/testatrix signing it. Witnesses must not be beneficiaries of the Will, or close family members of beneficiaries.

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