UK Wills & Probate Law Glossary & Probate Information

Administrator of a Will

    The administrator of an estate is the person or people up to a maximum of four, appointed under wills and probate law, whose authority is vested in them following application to the Probate Registry, that will deal with your affairs if you should die without making a will. An administrator is usually a potential beneficiary (under the intestacy rules which apply when there is no will) and is usually a close family member of the deceased who wishes to see the estate finalized and who applies to the Probate Registry to take on this responsibility. The equivalent position in cases where there is a will is that of ‘executor’ who is specifically appointed by the deceased in the will.

Beneficiary of a Will

    A beneficiary is any person who stands to gain as a result of a bequest made in a will or who receives something from an estate. Where there is a will most beneficiaries are specifically named however they can belong to a class of people who are nor specifically named and who can still benefit from the will.

Codicil

    A testator who wishes to amend or change a will usually drafts a completely new will for the sake of clarity however there are occasions when an addition to a will can be made and this is known as a codicil. A codicil is usually added as a separate document however it can simply be added to the existing document. A codicil must however be properly executed in the same way that the will was originally executed. A defective codicil does not affect the content of the original will however a properly executed codicil may in some cases have effects that were neither intended nor desired. It is advisable to take professional advice before executing a codicil.

Crown / Treasury / State

    These terms when they relate to probate effectively refer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Government but most specifically means the governments bank balance. If a will is not valid or if you didn’t bother making one and you have no next of kin then the Crown/Treasury/State can claim your assets which are forfeited to the Chancellor/Government.

Estate

    This term refers to the total value of everything you own at the time of your death, less any outstanding liabilities such as mortgages, overdrafts, loans and household bills etc. In some circumstances the net estate can be nil or there may be more liabilities than there assets in which case some creditors may take priority (VAT etc) and the balance may thereafter be distributed to the beneficiaries pro rata according to the terms of the will.

Executor/Executrix of a Will

    The term executrix applies to females and the term executor refers to males. Both executrix and executor occupy exactly the same position. The executrix(s) or executor(s) (up to a maximum of four) is the person (or people) that you appoint in your will to deal with your affairs after your death. They can be professionally qualified such as solicitors or accounts or can be close relatives or friends. Depending on the complexity of the estate it is not unusual for lay executors to appoint a solicitor to deal with matters on their behalf. The solicitor’s fees will usually be paid out of the net estate before distribution of the assets. They are not paid personally by the executors although they are the personal liability of the executors who are entitled to pay them from the assets of the estate.

Funeral Arrangements

    These are the instructions that you give for carrying out your final wishes including interment, cremation, flowers, service etc.

Inheritance Tax

    This is a government tax (which may change from year to year in the annual Budget) imposed at a preset rate by Customs and Revenue, which is paid by an estate once the net value of the estate exceeds the current threshold. A well drafted will can reduce the impact of inheritance tax and it is possible for family members to retrospectively change a will to take advantage of unclaimed tax concessions and effectively reduce the potential tax burden.

Intestacy

    This is the term used in wills and probate law when the person who has died did not make a valid a will. At this point the intestacy rules come into play which determine who will be able to claim the estate. If there is no one who is eligible under the rules (defined close relatives) then the estate may be forfeited and claimed by the State.

Legacy

    A legacy is an old fashioned term which refers to any gift made to a beneficiary in a will which can include an object, property, money or a trust fund paying installments for life.

Letters of Administration

    This is the authority given by the Probate Registry, upon application by an interested party, to deal with the affairs of a deceased person who has not left a valid will.

Probate

    This is the determination of the legality of the will by the Probate Registry enabling the appointment of an executor/executrix to deal with the affairs of the deceased.

Testator/Testatrix

    This refers to the male/female person who made the will.

Trust

    This is an arrangement outlined in the will instructing a ‘trustee’ to carry out certain actions sometimes at particular time or dates but more often at their own discretion. It usually refers to the payment of money and is often thought necessary by the testator to protect the beneficiary from their own shortcoming or from certain potential risk in the future. A trust may be set up for infants which comes to an end upon the infant reaching majority or some other predetermined age. The balance of that fund may be distributed to the initial beneficiary or may be applied elsewhere consistent with the terms of the original will.

Witness

    For valid execution of a will, two witnesses, must sign the document both being present at the same time with the testator who must either sign the will in front of them or acknowledge that the signature on a pre-signed will is that of the testator. A gift to a witness will be void.

NB: Disclaimer & Policies

 

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