Common Solicitor Terms

Common terms when talking to a solicitor


Those appointment to administer an estate where there is no will or executor.


A single part of someone’s estate (see below), for example a car or a house.


A person or organisation who benefits from the estate (see below) of the person that has died.


A gift made in a will.


An item or personal possession which can be moved such as a car, jewellery, paintings.


A document that may change or add to a will.

Conditional legacy

A legacy gift which only takes effect if a specific condition is met on death.

Deed of variation 

A document that can change hoe an estate is divided up after the person has died.


The property and assets of the person who has died. This includes money in savings accounts, stocks and shares, property, and any personal belongings.


The personal representative (see below) who has been appointed by the will or codicil to manage the estate of the person that has died.

Inheritance Tax (IHT)

A tax on the value of a person’s estate after their death. IHT may also apply to the value of certain gifts made by an individual during their lifetime. The rules around whether an estate is subject to IHT are complex.


When a person dies without leaving a will. When this occurs, intestacy rules refer to the laws that decide who the person’s estate will pass to, as well as who can deal with the estate in the absence of a will. 


A gift left within a will to an organisation or individual. There are different types of legacy, including pecuniary, residuary, specific and life interest gifts or legacies.


Someone who has left a legacy in their will.

Letter of administration 

The official document issued by the court empowering an executor to deal with the estate.


Financial obligations which need to be settled from an estate after death.

Life interest gift/trust fund 

A gift given to someone for the remainder of their life, e.g. a spouse who may continue to live in the property after the original owner has died. After the beneficiary has died, the gift is then passed onto a second beneficiary specified in the will, such as a charity. 

Memorandum of appropriation

This is when the beneficiaries of an estate use their power to pass ownership of an asset for example to a charity before a sale takes place (to mitigate Capital Gains Tax).

Mirror Wills

This is when two wills are almost identical, for example each person leaving everything to each other if one should die (or to another agreed beneficiary if they die together).

Nil Rate Band (NRB)

The Inheritance Tax nil rated band is the amount of your estate which can be passed on to your beneficiaries free from inheritance tax after death.

Personal Representative

The person responsible for administering the estate of the person that has died.


A gift of a specific amount of money e.g. £10,000.

Power of Attorney 

A lasting power of attorney is a legal document that enables you to appoint one or more people to make decisions on your behalf. This gives you more control over what happens to you if you have an accident or an illness and cannot make your own decisions. Powers of Attorney can relate to your ‘health and welfare’ and/or ‘property and financial affairs. 


The legal process during which a will is proven in court and accepted as a valid public document, it is usually one of the first steps in the legal process of administering the estate.


The ‘residue’ of an estate is everything left over after all debts, bills, and taxes have been paid and all gifts in the will have been distributed. Leaving the residue of an estate to a names beneficiary is called a ‘residuary gift’.

Specific Gift 

An object, such as a house, shares in a company or other personal belongings.


This is the person who writes a will.


A legal entity that allows someone to benefit from an asset without being the legal owner.


The people or organisations names in a will to manage any trust which has been set up.


A formal document that contains a person’s wishes regarding what happens to their estate after they’ve passed away.

Witness to a Will 

For a will to be valid, it must be: signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses who are both over the age of 18, and signed by your two witnesses in your presence.

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