Glossary of Terms

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    Common terms which appear throughout our legal practices (listed in alphabetical order).

    Attorney

    A person appointed to act on your behalf with general or specific powers. A Lasting Power of Attorney is a type of power for someone to manage your financial affairs or health issues when you are unable to manage yourself.

    Asset

    All things of value that you own such as property, cash, investments, personal items and goods.

    Beneficiary

    A person designated to receive money or other benefit under your Will.

    Capacity

    An ability to be able to make your own decisions; the maker of a Will must have the mental capacity to know and understand the content of the document.

    Charge

    A security on property to prevent sale unless the loan debt or obligation under the charge is paid off.

    Charity Relief

    Where 10 per cent of an estate is left to charity any Inheritance Tax (IHT) due is at a reduced rate of 36% instead of 40%.

    Codicil

    A document that amends, alters or adds to your Will without the whole Will needing to be rewritten. It must be signed and witnessed in the same manner as a Will and should be kept with your Will.

    Cohabitation

    Two people who live together in a long-term or permanent relationship.

    Court of Protection

    The Court of Protection was created under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and has jurisdiction over the property, financial affairs and personal welfare of those people who lose the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

    Debts and Expenses

    Any liability of the deceased such as loans, mortgages and business or personal debts along with expenses such as funeral expenses and the costs of administration of the estate.

    Deed

    A legal document which must be signed and witnessed.

    Deed of Variation

    A Will can be varied within 2 years after death provided all beneficiaries agree; the new arrangements must be set out in a deed.

    Dependents

    A person maintained by the deceased at the time of death such as children, spouses (and former spouses), partners living with them.

    Donee

    The person who receives a gift or delegation of powers such as under a Power of Attorney.

    Donor

    The person who gives or donates gifts or powers such as under a Lasting Power of Attorney.

    Duress

    Coercion to force a person to perform an act otherwise against their free will using violence, threat or other pressure.

    Estate

    The total value of all of assets on death.

    Executor

    The person, people or organisations (such as a firm of solicitors or a bank) appointed in your Will to deal with carrying out your wishes.

    Foreign Assets

    Property that is situated outside of England and Wales.

    Fraud

    Intentional deception in order to secure an unfair or unlawful gain.

    Gifts

    An asset you give in its entirety to someone – you can make gifts during your lifetime as well as under your Will. Lifetime gifts may give rise to tax on your death. If any benefit is reserved or the gift only partially made this gives rise to tax complications.

    Guardian

    The person appointed under a Will to have parental responsibility for children if they are minors at the time of death of their parent.

    Inheritance Tax

    This is a tax levied on your estate if it is over the ‘free’ limit of £325,000. The rate is 40%. Lifetime gifts can be added back to the value of your estate in certain circumstances. Figures as at 2014.

    Intestacy

    This occurs when a person dies without a valid Will. There are fixed rules for the distribution of an intestate estate.

    Joint Ownership

    There is more than one type. If you are joint beneficial owners it will mean that you own property as a joint holder with other(s) and on your death your share automatically passes to the other(s). So you cannot leave it to anyone else in your Will.If your ownership is shared in specified percentages then you can leave your share to another person under your Will.

    Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)

    A document, separate from your Will, enabling you to appoint an attorney to manage your affairs if you become unable to manage them yourself. You can also have an LPA that appoints an attorney to help manage any health/welfare issues.

    Legacy

    This is the term given to a gift you make in your Will.

    Letter of wishes

    This is a side letter setting out the instructions you would like your executor(s) to follow but which is not binding on them.

    Letters of Administration

    If you die without making a valid Will an application has to be made to Court to obtain Letters of Administration to enable the estate to be administered. There is a fixed order of priority for the people who can apply.

    Mirror Will

    Two (or more) Wills having the same content and which are for couples who wish to ensure that their assets go to the same people.

    Mutual Will

    Similar to mirror Will but on the death of the first maker of such a Will the survivor cannot change his/her Will.

    Personal representative

    Either the executor under a Will or the Administrator of an intestate estate appointed by Letters of Administration.

    Prenuptial Agreements

    An agreement by the parties to an intended marriage setting out how their joint assets and income are to be distributed in the event of the breakdown of the marriage. These are not regarded as binding but the Court may consider them persuasive if there is no evidence of duress or undue influence. The Court retains jurisdiction with regards to children.

    Pre-owned Asset

    This is an asset that you owned, purported to give it away in your lifetime while retaining the use of it. Inheritance Tax can be payable on such assets.

    Probate

    This is the authority obtained from the court to validate the Will and enable your executors to administer it in accordance with your Will.

    Residue

    The remainder of an estate after tax, liabilities and specific gifts or legacies have been paid. The person(s) who receive or share in the residue are called the residuary beneficiary(ies).

    Revocation

    The act of cancelling a document such as a Will so that it is of no further effect.

    Settlement

    Another word for a trust.

    Severance of tenancy

    If you are a joint owner such that on the death of one owner their share passes to the other that joint tenancy can be severed to create a tenancy in common with specified shares for the owners.

    STEP

    The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners issues standard form wording for Wills and Trusts that can be incorporated into a document by reference.

    Tenant in common

    A person who owns a defined share of property held with other(s)

    Testator

    The maker of a Will.

    Trust

    A legal structure where two or more persons hold and own assets not for their own benefit but for the benefit of others – the beneficiaries. There will usually be a deed to set out the terms.

    Trustee

    The person who is appointed to hold the assets of the trust and distribute them according to the terms of a trust deed.

    Trust period

    The period for which a trust is set up – the maximum time allowed is 125 years after which the trust must be wound up and any funds distributed to the current beneficiaries.

    Undue Influence

    A legal concept whereby one person takes advantage of a position of power over another person.

    Will

    A document to set out how you wish your estate to be managed and distributed after your death. To be valid it must be freely made by a competent person and be signed and witnessed.

    Will trust

    A clause or set of clauses in a Will that passes some part of an estate or assets to the named trustees for the benefit of beneficiaries.

    Witness

    Under current legislation, a Will must be signed in the presence of two independent people. They must each then sign the Will stating that they have seen you sign the Will and that you are the person named in it as the testator. The witnesses cannot be people who stand to benefit under your Will or be married to or be in a civil partnership with anyone who is a beneficiary in your Will.

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