Probate and estate administration – a glossary of terms

Dealing with someone’s estate after their death can involve a number of different terms. Below are some of the most commonly used words and phrases to help explain the probate and administration process.

Administrator – deals with the winding up of the estate of someone who died without leaving a Will. This is generally a beneficiary of the estate.

Assets – all items owned by the deceased, to include money, property, investments and valuables.

Beneficiary – someone who will inherit from the deceased’s estate.

Bequest – a gift left to someone in a Will.

Chattel – personal property, other than money, securities or business assets.

Codicil – a legal document that can be added to a Will, altering or adding to its provisions.

Estate – All of the assets left by the deceased. The estate could include property, bank accounts, investments, valuable items, vehicles, pets and other personal possessions.

Estate administration –  finalisation or winding up of the deceased’s affairs. It is carried out by the administrators or executors and involves obtaining a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration where necessary, paying all debts and other liabilities, calculating and paying Inheritance Tax, valuing the estate, collecting in the assets, selling property, preparing detailed estate accounts and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries.

Estate accounts – the detailed accounts covering all financial transactions since the date of death. These are prepared by the administrator or executor or their legal representative and will include payment of debts and sale of assets.

Excepted estate – An estate where Inheritance Tax is not payable, for example, because of exemptions or because it falls below the Inheritance Tax threshold.

Executor – deals with the administration of the deceased’s estate. An executor is appointed by the deceased in their Will.

Grant of Letters of Administration – the legal document issued by the Probate Registry giving an administrator legal authority to administer the deceased’s estate. This is the document needed where the deceased did not leave a Will.

Grant of Probate – the legal document issued by the Probate Registry giving an executor legal authority to administer the deceased’s estate. This is the document that the executor will need to apply for where the deceased left a Will. A Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is not needed in the case of a small estate.

Inheritance Tax – tax payable on the value of an estate when this is above a set level. It is the responsibility of the administrator or executor to calculate and pay Inheritance Tax.

Intestacy – where the deceased died without leaving a Will.

Legacy – another word for bequest, this is a gift left to someone in a Will.

Personal representative – the estate administrator or executor.

Power reserved – where someone who is named as an executor decides not to take up the role, but reserves their right to do so at a later stage.

Probate – this is often used to refer to the whole estate administration process as well as to the Grant of Probate itself.

Probate Registry – this is the court service that the administrator or executor will need to send their application for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to. The Probate Registry will consider the application and if everything is in order, issue a Grant within a few weeks.

Residuary estate / residue – the part of the estate that is left after all debts and liabilities have been discharged and all specific gifts have been made.

Rules of Intestacy – when someone dies without a Will, their estate is distributed to beneficiaries in the order listed in the Rules of Intestacy. These rules set out those who are entitled to inherit in a set order of preference, starting with the deceased’s spouse and children.

Testator / testatrix – the person who made the Will.

Contact us

If you would like to speak to one of our expert, ring us on 0800 781 6658 or email us at enquiries@estplan.co.uk.