A proportional reduction applied where the estate had insufficient assets to pay beneficiaries or creditors in full.


A gift or property mentioned in a Will that cannot be given to the beneficiary because it no longer belonged to the Deceased.


Managing the affairs of the Deceased. This involves establishing, collecting and distributing the assets of the estate as stated in the Will or, where there is no Will, according to the intestacy rules.

Administration period

The time it takes from the date of death to completion of the estate's administration.


Someone who is appointed by law to settle your affairs if you die without leaving a Will, or if the named executor does not wish to act.


A written statement, confirmed by oath, for use as evidence in court.


Everything owned by the Deceased.


Witnessing a signature.


Someone entitled to a share on the estate.


A gift of a particular item or cash as opposed to land or buildings.

Personal estate adviser

A dedicated personal estate adviser will be appointed to deal with the day-to-day running of the estate administration. They will be the main point of contact throughout the process and will keep clients regularly informed.


Any moveable personal property. For example, a TV, sofa, cooker, jewellery, wine, pictures, even cars and horses not used for business.

Chargeable gift

An item given in a Will on which tax may have to be paid.


This covers all legitimate and illegitimate children and legally adopted children. It does not include stepchildren.


A legal term for an addition or change made to your Will. It has to be signed and witnessed in the same way as your Will.


A partner of the deceased who may be able to claim a share of the estate. The term 'common law wife' has no legal force.


A doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating deaths where:

  • The deceased was not attended by a doctor during the last illness or the doctor treating the deceased had not seen him or her either after death or within the 14 days before death.

  • The death was violent or unnatural or occurred under suspicious circumstances.

  • The cause of death is not known or is uncertain.

  • The death occurred while the patient was undergoing an operation or did not recover from the anaesthetic.

  • The death was caused by an industrial disease.

  • The death occurred in a prison or in police custody.

De facto

Usually used when referring to the common law spouse as a 'de facto wife' or the 'de facto husband'. This means that they were not legally married, but living together as if married. The common law couple do not share the same rights as a married couple.


The official statement by a witness taken in writing as opposed to taken verbally.

Discretionary trust

A trust where the trustee has full power to decide when and which members of a group of beneficiaries are to receive their capital.


The property, money and possessions of the deceased person.


The person(s) you appoint in your Will to administer your estate when you die.

Grant of probate

Usually only obtainable by the executors of a valid Will. It is a legal document issued by the probate registry to one or more of the executors named in the Will authorising them to deal with the estate.

Grant of Letters of Administration

The legal document issued by probate registry, appointing an administrator to deal with the estate. This is issued either when there is a Will but no executor named; where the executors are unable to apply or where they do not wish to be involved in dealing with the estate; or where the deceased has not made a will or any will made is not valid.

Grant of Representation

An order of the High Court when a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Administration is obtained, and the personal representative is free to administer and distribute the estate.


The people chosen by the testator to look after their children in the event of their death.

Inheritance Tax or IHT

The tax which may be payable on your estate and on certain lifetime gifts after you die.


A public enquiry, held by a coroner, into the medical cause and circumstance of a death.


The right to your property.


To die without making a legally valid Will.


The name for the situation which arises when someone dies without making a Will. Their estate is then distributed according to the laws governing intestacy.


All your "living" direct bloodline descendants.

Joint tenancy

When a property is owned by two or more people. Joint tenants are usually husband and wife and in the event of the death of one tenant, the other becomes the owner of the whole property. A joint tenant cannot make a gift of their share of the property to anyone else as it is not theirs to give.


A gift left in a Will, other than property or land. There are three common types of legacies: - A specific legacy is simply a specific property or object - A pecuniary legacy is a gift of a specific sum of money - A residuary legacy is a gift of the money or assets left over when all other legacies and expenses have been paid


The debts that need to be settled by the estate following the death of the deceased e.g. household and general bills, funeral expenses or outstanding Income Tax.

Living Will

Sometimes known as an "advance directive", is a document containing instructions to medical personnel to allow them to stop prolonging your life in the event of you becoming terminally ill, permanently unconscious or losing your mental capacity. Some people decide they do not want to be kept alive in such an event by either artificial means or medical treatment. Living Wills cannot necessarily be enforced by law.

Next of kin

The nearest blood relative of the deceased.


A pledge to tell the truth often calling upon God as a witness.

Personal representative

The person appointed by the Probate Court (including your own executor named in a Will) to deal with your estate in a Grant of Representation.

Post-mortem (also known as autopsy)

Where there is no certifiable reason for a person's death, doctors may ask relatives for permission to carry out a post-mortem which is a medical examination of the body to determine the cause of death. It should not delay the funeral.


The document issued by the Probate Court, which pronounces the validity of the Will and upholds the appointment of the executor. When somebody dies, the person dealing with the Will may have to obtain probate from the local Probate Court.


The person who registers the death. By law, every death must be registered by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the sub-district in which it occurred.

Residuary beneficiary

Any person entitled to receive a share of any residue of the estate, under the terms of the Will or intestacy.


The amount left in the estate after pecuniary legacies, specific gifts, funeral expenses and IHT is paid. This includes bank accounts and insurance policies.


When the testator decides to change their Will completely and invalidates a previous version.

Social fund

Part of the social security system which may provide help with the cost of a funeral, depending on circumstances.

Specific gifts

These are gifts that you want to be made to specific people. For example, leaving a pet to a specific individual that you know would be able to look after it.


When using terms such as "husband" and "wife", it is important to consider that this refers to your husband or wife at the time a Will was written. If you are going through a divorce, your spouse remains your husband or wife until you receive your decree absolute.

Tenants in common

This is when the property is owned jointly but each joint owner has a distinct share which forms part of their estate on death and does not pass automatically to the surviving tenant(s).


This is the person who actually sets out his wishes and requests as to how their estate should be divided in the form of a will. A Testator must be over 18 years of age and of sound mind at the time of making the will.


A female testator.


An arrangement set up by Will or deed. Trustees are appointed and given money or assets to hold and manage for defined beneficiaries.


The trustees hold on to any assets set out in the Will until nominated beneficiaries meet certain criteria, such as reaching the age of 18. Trustees normally have powers to distribute monies and have full power to sell and invest, etc.


A Will is always subject to two witnesses having verified the signature of the testator. They will have to sign the Will at the same time as each other and also at the same time as the testator.