Glossary – legal terms explained

Here are explanations of some of the legal words and phrases that are frequently used in dealing with a will and an estate.

Absolute Interest

An interest that the beneficiary is completely entitled to immediately, without any restrictions.

Acquisition Value (Probate)

The value at which either the personal representatives or the beneficiary acquires the assets.


The formal and legal term for dealing with the estate.

Administration Period

The period between the date of death and the date of the close of administration.


The person appointed to administer an estate where there is no valid will, or where the executor is unable, or unwilling, to act.

Agreed Value

The Probate value as formally agreed by HMRC where inheritance tax is payable.

Appointment, Power of

A power given by will or deed to appoint a person or class of persons to inherit an interest.


Property, money or possessions that belonged to the deceased.


A person appointed by another to act in his/her place.


A person who inherits all or part of the money or property from someone who has died.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

Capital Gains Tax is a tax on capital 'gains'. If when you sell or give away an asset it has increased in value, you may be taxed on the profit/gain.


This is a legal written amendment to an existing will.


This is a legal document issued by the Sheriff's Court in Scotland, where the deceased lived in Scotland. It is the equivalent to the Grant of Probate issued in England and Wales.

Coroner's Certificate

In certain circumstances a death has to be investigated by the coroner. In this case a Coroner's Certificate will be provided in place of the Death Certificate.

Death Certificate

The legal document issued by the registrar when a person dies. It is a copy of the entry in the death register.

Deed of Variation

This allows beneficiaries to change how the estate is distributed to reflect family circumstances or possibly save future inheritance tax.


The total value of everything owned by the person who passed away – money, property and possessions – after any debts they had have been settled.

Estate Accounts

Accounts listing all transactions during the administration period.


The person(s) named in a will who is responsible for making sure the wishes of the person who died are carried out.

Grant of Letters of Administration

If a valid will doesn't exist, this document authorises the person dealing with the estate (the administrator) to deal with the deceased's property and financial affairs.

Grant of Probate

An official document confirming that the will is valid and stating who the personal representative is. It can be used to show the Personal Representative(s) has the right to access funds, sort out finances, and collect and share out the deceased's Assets as set out in the will. In Scotland this document is called 'confirmation'.

Grant of Representation

A document that provides proof that someone has 'Probate' and is allowed to deal with a person's estate.

Inheritance Tax

Tax that is paid from the estate of a person who has passed away and must be paid before the estate is shared out to the beneficiaries.


When someone passes away without having made a valid will. A person who dies without having made a valid will is known as having died 'intestate'.

Legacy or bequest

A gift contained in a will, ie: a specific item or general bequest of money.

Letters of Administration

An official document stating who the personal representative is when a person has died without making a will.

Next of Kin

The closest related family member(s) of a person who has passed away. This is normally their husband, wife, civil partner or their child/children.

Nil Rate Band

The value of Assets which a deceased person can leave to friends or family without them having to pay any inheritance tax.

Personal Representative

The person who is legally responsible for dealing with the estate.


The legal term for giving someone the authority to manage the estate of a person who has passed away. In Scotland, Probate is known as 'confirmation'.

Probate Registry

The organisation responsible for overseeing probate and issuing Grants of Representation.

Renouncing Probate

The act whereby a named personal representative signs a legal document which cancels his/her appointment from the start.

Residuary Estate

What remains of the estate after payment of all debts, legacies and all taxes and expenses.


The person who holds assets on trust.


A document which states what someone would like to happen to their assets when they pass away.

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