Wills and Probate Glossary

Posted on 13 December 2012

There are a number of words and phrases that you will often come across in the area of wills and probate. This article takes you through some of the most important ones.


Someone who receives anything from your will


A change to an existing will is made through adding a codicil.

Crown or Treasury:

The government. If you leave no surviving family and no instructions to the contrary, they get everything.


Your possessions at the time of your death (less any outstanding debts).


Less sinister than they sound! Executors are the people you choose to carry out your instructions.


A person with legal control or responsibility for a minor (i.e. a child under 18). You can designate Guardians in your will.

Inheritance Tax:

40% tax payable on all estates over a certain value (£325,000 in 2009-10). This can catch homeowners out, especially in and around London.


If you die without making a will, you are said to die ‘intestate’


Anyone under the age of 18 (in English law)


A gift in a will. This can be a specified item (a Specific Legacy) or a gift of money (a Pecuniary Legacy)


Grant of probate establishes that your executor(s) are legally authorised to manage and distribute your estate.

Residue or Residuary Estate:

What’s left of your estate after all specific gifts and expenses have been paid out

Residuary Beneficiary:

Someone who receives the residue of an estate, or part of it

Sound Mind:

To be ‘of sound mind’ means that the mind is reasonable and comes to a judgment upon ordinary subjects, like other rational men.


Someone who makes a Will


A female testator


A trust is an arrangement under which a trustee or trustees hold and manage property for the benefit of another person or persons (the trust beneficiary or beneficiaries)


A person responsible for administering a trust.


A legal document which establishes the wishes of someone upon their death. Used to say who gets what from someone’s estate. Writing a will ensures that your possessions are distributed according to your wishes in the event of your death.


A witness confirms that they saw the testator (or testatrix) sign the document and that he/she was of sound mind at the time of signing. To be legally valid, a will must have two witnesses.


We use cookies to make our website work better for you. See our cookie policy.