Convenient Wills     The home visit will writing service

Stoke (01782) 639716

or     0800 072 5510

The following provide a list of the more commonly used words and phrases used in estate planning. We hope you find the list helpful.

Administrator: An administrator is a person who sorts out a deceased person’s estate when the deceased person failed to make a valid will.

Attestation: The act of signing will, and having that signature witnessed in accordance with the Wills Act 1837 is known as ‘testing the will’.

Basic Will:  See simple Will.

Codicil: These are legal documents that contain details of amendments to an existing Will.  In the past they were very common but nowadays, with the advent of computer-generated Wills, it is more common to reprint the whole Will with the appropriate amendments included therein.

Complex Wills:  We use the phrase ‘complex Wills’ as the collective noun for all Wills that are not classified as ‘simple’ Wills. Most ‘complex Wills’ are referred to by a name that indicates the trust that is contained within the Will. E.g. PPT Will i.e. a Will but contains a protective property trust.

For more information see the table to the right.

Executor: The person appointed by the testator to sort out their affairs for them (i.e. to execute the instructions contained within their will) after their death.

The executors have the responsibility of sorting out the testator’s affairs. Simplistically they are responsible for registering the testator’s death,  arranging funeral arrangements, collecting in all monies due to the testator, repaying all the testator’s debts, and then distributing the testator’s estate in accordance with the testator’s Will.  You can down load our fact sheet by clicking here.

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Expression of wishes: This is a document that does not normally form part of the will itself, but may be referred to within the will.  The document can be used as guidance to how a trust fund should be used, how guardians should treat their children, or how personal chattels [not included within the will is a specific gifts] are to be disposed of.

Grant of Probate: This is the document issued by the Probate Office confirming that an executor has the legal title to sort out a person’s estate.

Guardian: A person appointed within a will to look after the testator’s a minor children after the testator’s death is called a ‘Guardian’

Intestate: Where a person dies without making a valid Will they are said to have died ‘intestate’.

Islamic Wills: An Islamic Will is a Will that is drafted under English Law - and is therefore legally binding in England and Wales, and also meets the criteria of the Muslim faith and Shari’a Law.

Joint Wills: A ‘joint will’ is a single legal document that distributes the estates of two testators. It is drafted this way to reduce the production costs of two Wills by making just one Will. There is no restriction however upon a surviving testator to not subsequently make a new Will after the death of the other testator - and including significant changes to the distribution of the estate.

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Glossary of Estate Planning Terms in lay-man’s language

Are you

then this page will provide you with some clarity.

Complex Wills

We use the phrase ‘Complex Wills’ to refer collectively to the various Wills that contain a specialist trust. These trusts can:

‘Complex Wills’ are the area of specialism for solicitors and will-drafters.  You are most unlikely to find examples in your local generalist library and DIY ‘Make Your Own Will’ kits.

Mutual v Joint Compared

Unlike a ‘mutual’ Will (where there is an intention that the surviving 2nd-person cannot alter the terms of the Will after the death of the first-to-die), with a ‘joint’ Will no such restriction applies.

This difference sometimes leads to confusion (and hardship in some cases) when people make the wrong type of will not realising the consequences of doing so.

Last Will and Testament: This is the name given to the legal document that sets out how a person’s estate is to be distributed after their death.  To be legally valid it must comply with the criteria set out in the Wills Act 1837. It is commonly abbreviated to ‘will’.  

Throughout this website we refer to the document as a ‘Will’ so as to distinguish it from the ‘will’ of a person, or an intended forthcoming action.  (E.g. John will make his Will when he finds the desire and will to do so.) We believe this makes understanding our website a little easier.

Letter of last request: This is a document that is separate to the will and does not usually form part of the will.  It is an opportunity though for the testator to set out their thoughts, expressions of love, and wishes to their family.

Mirror Wills: Most married couples wish for their estate to be distributed to their surviving spouse, and then to their children. As the two Wills are virtually the same, the only difference being that the husband inherits from the wife, and the wife inherits from the husband, these are known as ‘mirror Wills’.

Mutual Wills: A ‘mutual will’ is one Will of a set of two, where the testator agrees with their spouse or partner that they will not amend their Will without the agreement of the spouse or partner (and sometimes the beneficiaries in the absence of the spouse/partner).

Personal representative: A personal representative is a person who manages the financial affairs of another person who is unable to do so.

When a person dies, a personal representative generally is required to settle the decedent's financial affairs.  The executor (if there is a Will) or administrator (if the person dies without making a valid Will) is thus a personal representative.

Simple or  Basic Will:  There is no standard definition of a ‘simple‘ or ‘basic’ will; it is a question of personal interpretation: Interpretation by the will writer may however be different to that of the client.

Commonly, but not exclusively, a ‘simple Will’ is a Will where there are no trusts included. Remember that if you have a child under the age of 18 a trust will be required for that child – so in many cases the parent of a minor child will need a ‘complex’ will, albeit not as complex as, say, a Will that is designed to avoid [say] inheritance tax.

Testator:    The person who makes a will is a ‘testator’.   They must be aged 18 (Unless a member of the armed forces on active duty), and of sound mind.

The testator’s task is to decide how they want their estate to be distributed, who is to take on the role of sorting out their estate when they die  (i.e. Who they want to appoint as their executor), what powers their executors are to have, and who else is to be involved with the estate and family e.g. Guardian and trustee.

Testatrix:   Historically, if a woman made a will she was known as  testatrix, and the male a testator.  We tend not to differentiate these days.

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Trust: There are many textbooks definitions of what is a trust.  We see the simplest is describing a trust has been a legal arrangement whereby the ownership of an asset is separated from enjoying the benefit of that asset.

Trustee: A trustee is the person who is responsible for running a trust.  Where a will appoints an executor and as part of their duties trust is to be set up it is not uncommon that the executor then becomes the trustee of the trust fund.

Will: See ‘Last Will and Testament’.

The Will-Writer: This is the person who drafts the testator’s Will. That could be the testator themselves, a solicitor, a will-writer (hopefully us), or an Internet provider.  

If the will writer is a solicitor, will-writer or Internet provider then there will be a process to ascertain what the testator’s wishes are: this may involve a face-to-face discussion, and/or completing a form. Where the testator is the will writer they may seek assistance from a book, or a ‘Make your own will’ CD rom software to help them.

Witness: When a Will is signed it must be done so in the presence of two witnesses who then attest the will to that effect (i.e. they sign to say they were present at the signing of the will).  A witness is therefore one of the two witnesses required for this purpose.

The witness’s role is to witness the testator signing their Will, and to be able to verify the testator was ‘sober’ at the time, and understood what the testator was signing, and that the testator was not signing under any pressure or undue influence.

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