Glossary of Probate Terms

The words used in probate can often be confusing, so we have provided a glossary of some of the more common terms to help better understand their meaning:

Assets passing by survivorship – Where assets are held in joint names they will pass to the survivor automatically rather than through the will and are excluded from the value of assets for probate purposes.

Beneficiary – The person who is the recipient of money or assets as assigned in the will.

Codicil – This is a legal document that amends (rather than replaces) a previous will. It may add or replace small provisions (e.g. a change in executor), or may completely change the majority of the will. It must conform to the same legal requirements as the original will have the signatures of the testator and two witnesses who do not benefit from the will in any way.

Deed of Variation – A legal document that allows the beneficiaries to change the terms of the will, even after the person’s death.

Grant of Probate – The legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing their property according to a valid will.

Executors’ Oath – A written statement sworn by the Executors or Administrators of an Estate which accompanies an application for a Grant of Representation.

Estate – All the deceased’s property and possessions including stocks and shares etc.

Executor – The person appointed in the will to administer the estate of a person who has died.

Estate Administration – The process through which a deceased’s assets, (property, bank accounts, stocks and shares for example), are distributed according to their wishes.

Grant of Representation – A document issued by the court which enables the person, or people named in it, to deal with all assets of a deceased person (i.e. their estate). It allows money to be collected from bank and building society accounts, property to be sold or transferred and for debts to be paid.

Gross Value of Estate – The total value of the deceased’s property before deducting liabilities.

Intestate – A person who has died and not left a legally valid will.

Intestacy – The situation whereby someone has died without leaving a legally valid will.

Legacy – An amount of money or property left to someone in a will.

Letter of administration – In cases where there are no executors appointed, still living or willing to carry out the executor’s duties, this documentation is given by the registrar to appoint people to handle the estate.

Liabilities – Debts.

Net value of estate – The value after deducting liabilities.

Probate – The term used in England and Wales for applying for the right to deal with a deceased person’s Estate which is often referred to as administering the estate.

Testator – The person who has written and executed a last will and testament.

Will – The legal documentation that allows a person to instruct how their estate will be managed and distributed after death.

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