Are you planning to write a will? Do you understand all the terminology around it? If not, then don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Trying to understand legal jargon can sometimes feel like learning an entirely new language. Whether you choose to seek a solicitor to help you make your will, make use of a will writing service or write your own using a will writing template, you will need to be able to understand some important legal terms if you want to get things right.
So, to make the legal-speak a bit less baffling, here are a few key terms that you may hear in your initial consultation, and an explanation of each:
If you die without having made a will then you are said to have ‘died intestate’. When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their property (the estate) will be divided up according to rules laid down by law. These are called the rules of intestacy. Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy.
You can also be said to have died intestate if you made a will but it is declared not legally valid. If, for example, your will was not drawn up correctly, or it can be proven that you were put under undue pressure by someone in the writing process. In these cases, the same rules of intestacy will be applied to your will.
Probate estate simply refers to all the assets a person owns at the time of their death, and which now need to be administered and bequeathed to those who are designated to receive them. Assets could include property, belongings, savings and cash, payments owed to the deceased, life insurance, land or shares.
Probate administration is the process by which a will is proven to be genuine, legally valid and approved by the court.
This term is used to describe the process of identifying the portion of a person’s estate which remains after all the gifts specified are distributed and all claims have been satisfied.
There is usually a residuary clause contained within each will and it is important in the case of the property remaining that either was not specifically referred to in the will, or in cases where a beneficiary is no longer alive to receive their allocated share of the assets.
In every will, an executor must be named. It is the job of the executor to carry out your wishes as per the instructions in your will.
You can appoint anyone you like to perform this role, but it is a role that carries great responsibility, therefore, it must be someone who is able to spend the time needed on the task, and who will take their role seriously.
Often, an executor is someone who is also named as a beneficiary in the will as this gives them an extra incentive to see the process through to the end, but it does not need to be. It could be a family member, friend, or even a professional such as a solicitor. It can be a time-consuming process, taking several months, particularly if the property needs to be sold to complete probate.
Mirror wills refer to two wills which are almost identical to each other. These kind of wills are most commonly made when a husband and wife, or civil partners, wish to leave the same instructions for their property, and where both are naming the same beneficiaries, usually each other in the case they should die separately, and children in the case that they have both passed away. As it is not possible for people to have joint wills, mirror wills are in effect two separate legal documents, with very similar contents. The respective partners in a mirror will usually name each other as executors, but it is important to have a second executor named in case both partners should die together.
There are many other terms that you may hear when making your will. It is important to get clear definitions of any terms you do not understand and a good will writer will always be happy to do so.