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Trusts, Wills and Estates / Private Client - A guide to common terms

Common Terms


We have put together the following glossary of common legal terms used when discussing probate and trusts. If you require any further information on any of the terms then please contact us and we will be happy to explain them in further detail.

Administrator

The persons appointed by law to administer your estate when you die without leaving a Will.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

An umbrella term for various different methods of resolving disputes outside the Court process, but widely used as a reference to mediation (being one such way).

Alzheimers

A progressive form of dementia starting normally in the 40s or 50s; first symptoms are impaired memory which are followed by impaired thought and speech and finally complete helplessness.

Appearance

A prescribed form filed by the caveator at Leeds District Probate Registry stipulating the caveator’s interest which is contrary to the person who is trying to take out a grant of administration.

Assets

Everything of value that is owned by a person or company

Attestation

This refers to the action of bearing witness to a signature.

Beddoe Application

An application by an executor or a trustee for the Court’s permission to bring or defend proceedings on behalf of the estate or trust

Beneficiary

A person for whose benefit property and/or assets are held. A beneficiary of a will could receive

  • a specific or general legacy
  • an annuity
  • a share of or all of the residuary estate

Caveat

A notice in writing that no grant of administration is to be sealed (approved by the Court) without notice to the person brining the caveat (the caveator).

Citation

A document issued by the District Probate Registry reciting that a cause or a matter is before the Court and the interest of the person bringing the citation and requesting that the person referred to in the citation attend Court on a specified date or do whatever else is stipulated in the citation.

Constructive Trust

A constructive trust is not created by an agreement between a settlor and the trustee. A constructive trust is imposed by the law as an "equitable remedy." This generally occurs due to some wrongdoing, where the wrongdoer has acquired legal title to some property and cannot in good conscience be allowed to benefit from it.

Dementia

A chronic brain disorder differentiated into congenital (eg some forms of learning disability) or acquired (eg from a head injury).

District Judge

A Judge sitting in one of the District Registries in England and Wales which are extensions of the High Court which is itself situated in the Royal Courts of Justice in London and who also sit in the County Courts in England and Wales.

Estate

Property owned by you including land, buildings, bank accounts, life policies, etc

Execution

This refers to the signing of a document.

Executor

A person appointed under the terms of the will to administer the deceased’s estate

Fraudulent calumny

False accusations made about an intended beneficiary to the testator with the intention of poisoning the testator's natural love and affection for the intended beneficiary

Geriatricians

Medical doctors specialising in the assessment and treatment of elderly people.

Grant of Letters of Administration

The document issued by the Court giving authority to the Administrators to administer your estate.

Grant of Probate

The document issued by the Court giving authority to the Executors to administer your estate

Grant of representation

A grant of probate or letters of administration.

Half Secret Trust

This is where the Will reveals that there is a trust but does not reveal its terms. The trust attaches to the Will but only the person making the Will and the trustee of the Half Secret Trust know of its terms.

Inheritance tax

The tax payable as a result of a person’s death. Not everyone pays Inheritance Tax on death. It only applies if the taxable value of your estate when you die is above £325,000 (2009/2010 tax year) and is only payable on the excess above this threshold. There are also a number of exemptions which allow you to pass on amounts (during your lifetime or in your will) without any Inheritance Tax being due, for example :

Interim Grants

Grants generally designed to protect the assets of the estate pending a full grant of administration.

Intermeddling

Generally a description applied to the activities of a person who is not appointed as an executor under a Will or otherwise lawfully entitled to a grant of administration on an intestacy and who has interfered with the administration of the deceased’s estate. That person can be held accountable to the beneficiaries of the estate and may be liable to criminal sanctions.

Intestacy rules

The rules which govern how your estate should be distributed if you die without leaving a Will.

Intestate

If you die without leaving a Will you are said to die intestate and the law decides how your estate will be distributed.

Mediation

A form of alternative dispute resolution in which an independent and impartial third party attempts to promote and facilitate negotiation and agreement between two or more parties in dispute.

Mediator

A negotiator who facilitates resolution between disputing parties and acts as a link between them.

Mirror Will

Similar to a mutual Will except mirror wills are not intended to bind the two parties who make the mirror Wills in a contract together. The terms of the two Wills simply mirror one another in an attempt to ensure equality between the parties

Mutual Will

One of two Wills made respectively by two people each giving the other rights in his property as identical as possible for the purposes of carrying out the intentions of the two people making the wills. Mutual Wills are generally intended to be irrevocable and are generally enforceable as contracts.

Pass Over

The process where there is no grant of administration and an application is made to the Court for an order which prevents a person prima facie entitled from obtaining a grant of administration.

Personal representative

The name for the people responsible for the administration of a deceased’s estate.

Probate Registrar

The senior civil servant at each Probate Registry in England & Wales who has jurisdiction to make decisions relating to estates and the administration of those estates.

Probate Registry

The Government Department that issues Grants of Probate/Letters of Administration.

Promissory Estoppel

A promise made to another party to a contract that the contract will not be enforced in whole or in part and which, once acted upon, prevents subsequent proceedings to enforce the contract as against the person who relied on the promise.

Proprietary Estoppel

A clear and unequivocal promise or assurance by conduct or words from A to B that B would at some defined point in the future obtain some part of or all of A’s property and upon which B relies to his detriment and at that said future point A attempts to deprive B of the benefit of the promise or assurance.

Psychogeriatricians

Medical doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in older people.

Queens Bench

The Queens Bench Division is one of the three divisions of the High Court along with the Chancery Division and the Family Division. Cases covered by the Queens Bench Division include personal injury, negligence, breach of contract, breach of statutory duty and defamation.

Resulting Trust

A resulting trust is a form of implied trust which occurs where a trust fails, wholly or in part, as a result of which the settler of the trust becomes entitled to the assets.

Sham Trust

A trust where there is no real intention to vest the assets of the trust in the trustees and where the trust vehicle has simply been used to further some ulterior motive be it to frustrate claims against the asset or the trustee or the beneficiary.

Summons

A request, at the instance of the applying party, by the Court that the parties listed in the Summons attend Court on the date and at the time stipulated in the Summons for a hearing.

Testamentary Capacity

This refers to the mental capacity of a person to make his or her last Will. There is a specific legal test to help determine whether or not someone possessed testamentary capacity at the relevant point in time. If the person did not possess testamentary capacity at the relevant time, the Will cannot be valid.

The Chancery Divison

The Chancery Division is one of the other three divisions of the High Court. The Chancery Division undertakes civil work of many kinds, including specialist work such as companies, patents and contentious probate work.

Trustee

A person who holds property and/or assets on trust for another and who is entrusted with the administration of the trust in which the property and/or assets are comprised.

Undue Influence

This refers to the actions of one person who coerces another person, against their will, to do something. Mere persuasion will not amount to undue influence. In contested probate cases, actual coercion must be shown.

Warning

A prescribed notice issued by a District Probate Registry warning the caveator to file another document (called an Appearance) within 8 days which effectively requires him to stipulate his interest which is contrary to the person issuing the Warning or to ask the Court for a hearing (by way of issuing a summons for a hearing).

Without Prejudice

A term often used by parties when negotiating. If offers are made under the without prejudice banner, the offers are not considered by the Court until after judgment.

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