Unfortunately the legal language used in Wills and to describe the process of making a Will can be difficult to follow.  Whilst we attempt, wherever possible, to adopt ‘plain English’ styles we have to be careful not to depart from words and phrases that have settled legal meanings in favour of less certain phrases.  If you have difficulty at any time we are available to explain the meanings and the steps involved.  To help we have set out below the meaning of the most commonly used words although not all of them may be relevant in the case of the Will we have drafted/will draft for you:-

Beneficiary

The person or body who will benefit from a gift in your Will.

Bequest

The name given to a gift made by a Will.

Chattels

Personal possessions such as furniture, clothing, jewellery and cars.

Codicil

A valid addition or alteration to a Will made after it has been signed.

Estate

All of the possessions you own on your death.

Executor/Executrix

Persons appointed to administer the provisions of your Will after your death (male/female).

Execution

The process of signing the Will in the presence of witnesses.  This is a formal procedure that has to be followed exactly or the Will could be invalid.

Free of all tax

If a gift is made ‘free of all tax’ any inheritance tax that has to be paid has to come from the remainder of the estate (provided it is big enough to pay all the tax that is due).  If it is not expressed to be ‘free of all tax’ and inheritance tax is payable on the deceased’s estate the gift may have to be reduced by a portion of that tax.

Guardian

A person appointed by a testator in his or her Will to care for any children under the age of 18years at the testator’s death.  The provision normally only takes effect if there is no other living parent.

Issue

A person’s children, grandchildren and all subsequent descendants.

Nil Rate Band

The amount that can be giving away by a deceased person without paying any tax.  For the tax year 2004/5 this amount is £263,000. [Does this require updating?]

Per Stirpes

A term used to designate a system of inheritance under which children take in equal shares the share which their parent would have taken had s/he survived the deceased.   The children are said to claim their shares by representing their parent. In practice this would apply where the residue of an estate is left by the deceased to his children in equal shares and a provision is included that, should one of them die, their share is passed to their children (ie the deceased’s grandchildren) in equal shares.  This means that if the deceased had two children they would each inherit half of the residue and, if one of the children died before the deceased, his two children would inherit one quarter each.  The estate would not be divided into three equal parts – one for the living child and one for each of the grandchildren.

Residue

The sum that is left in a deceased person’s estate after taxes and debts have been paid and all specific gifts have been settled.

Testator or Testatrix (Male/Female)

The person who made the will.

Trust

A mechanism by which property is held by one person (a Trustee) for another person (Beneficiary).  This commonly occurs where a beneficiary under a Will is a minor and cannot, for instance, own property.  The property has to be held on trust for the child until s/he reaches 18 or a later age specified in the will.  The Trustee holds the property but it does not belong to the Trustee.  The Trustee is under a duty to safeguard the property for the Beneficiary and cannot use it for their own purposes.