Inheritance disputes glossary

If you are involved in contesting a Will or any other kind of inheritance or probate dispute you may find the brief guide below a useful introduction to a number of the legal terms you may encounter during the process. To speak to a member of our leading team of expert solicitors contact us on 0203 816 9314, alternatively please complete our enquiry form.

Administration
This is a general term which means to deal with, and distribute, someone’s estate after they have passed away. To have authority to administer most estates, you will require either a Grant of Probate, or a Grant of Letters of Administration.

Appearance
This is a document filed in response to a warning against a caveat, at the probate registry, which sets out the basis on which someone is either challenging a Will, or objecting to someone being appointed as an executor.

Breach of Trust
Any person appointed under a Grant, to deal with a person’s estate, has certain duties that they must fulfil. If they fail in those duties, they are acting in breach of trust, and may be subject to a claim by the beneficiaries of the estate.

Caveat
A form sent to the Probate Registry to prevent a Grant of Probate being obtained on a deceased person’s estate.

Court of Protection
The Court of Protection is the branch of the Court which deals with the affairs of people who lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves. Such people are usually referred to as the patient. Once a patient under the Court of Protection passes away, the Court of Protection stops having any control over that person’s estate.

Deed of Variation
If the beneficiaries under a Will manage to reach an agreement to vary the terms of a Will, a formal deed of variation can be entered into. This deed has to be executed within two years of the deceased’s death.

Estate
This is the general term used to describe all of a person’s assets, personal belongings, and any money that they have.

Executors
This is the person or persons appointed, usually in someone’s Will, to apply for the Grant of Probate and then administer the person’s estate once they have died.

Grant of Letters of Administration
This is the document that formally appoints a person or persons as personal representatives of a deceased’s persons’ estate, allowing them the authority to sell property and close banks accounts, to administer the estate. A Grant of Letter of Administration is obtained when someone dies without leaving a Will.

Grant of Probate
This is the document that formally appoints a person or persons as executors of a deceased’s persons’ estate, allowing them the authority to sell property and close banks accounts, to administer the estate. A Grant of Probate is obtained when someone dies leaving a Will.

Intestate
This is the terms that is applied where someone dies without leaving a Will. The rules of intestacy then apply, and determine who is entitled to that person’s estate.

Issue
This is a formal term to refer to a person’s children.

Limitation
This is the time limit in which you have to start your case in Court, or you will lose the right to bring any claim. This can vary depending on the type of claim that you are bringing and in some cases can be a very short time limit.

Mediation
This is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can be used in any contentious claim. It can be a very good and cost effective way of reaching a settlement, or at least narrowing issues that are in dispute, without having to go to trial. The parties will all meet at one location, but in separate rooms, and usually (but not always) a formal mediator is appointed to facilitate negotiations.

Mutual Wills
These are wills made at the same time by two people, usually spouses/co-habitees, with a specific agreement that once the first person dies, the survivor cannot revoke their Will, and change their mind.

Personal Representatives
This is the person or persons appointed when someone has died without leaving a Will, to apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration, and then administer the person’s estate once they have died.  There is a specific order of entitlement for people to apply to be a personal representative.

Statutory Legacy
When a person dies without leaving a Will, the rules of intestacy determine who their estate will pass to.  If that person had a spouse and children, when they died, the spouse will be entitled to the first £250,000 of the estate. This sum is referred to as the statutory legacy.  Any remaining estate is then split 50% to the children, and the remaining 50% is then held on trust, and the spouse is entitled to the income from it during their lifetime.  After they die, the remaining 50% then goes to the children. If the deceased had a spouse and no children, but did have surviving parents, siblings, or nieces and nephews, then the statutory legacy sum is then £450,000. Under these circumstances, the surviving spouse also received 50% of the remainder immediately, and the other 50% will pass firstly to the parents, and then to their siblings.

Testator
This is the formal name for a person who makes a Will.

Testamentary Capacity
To make a Will, a person must have sufficient mental capacity to make it. They must be aware that they are making a Will, aware of the extent of their estate, and be aware of any potential claim that there may be against the estate, even if they chose to disinherit someone.

Trustee
This is a person or persons nominated to look after property or money on behalf of the beneficiary of the trust. Two trustees are required if the beneficiaries to a Will are children.

Warning
This is a document that is filed with the probate registry in response to a caveat being placed on a person’s estate.

Will
This is a formal document that a person can make prior to set out how they want their estate to be administered, and by who, after they die.

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