The process of probate can be confusing to a layperson, particularly as it so often comes at an emotional and stressful time. However, by understanding the language of probate, it is possible to gain a clearer picture of its processes and implications. Below we provide a glossary of probate terms.

Glossary of probate terms


The process of deciding the order in which all debts and liabilities owed by the estate will be paid.


Describes a testator's revocation of a gift in a Will by disposing of it, selling it on or irrevocably damaging it.


The person who oversees the administration of the estate when no Will has been made or there is no executor nominated to perform the task.


The possessions, investments, savings, property, personal effects of the deceased.


A person who stands to benefit from the estate of the deceased, whether through a Will, codicil/amendment, or the rules of intestacy.


Something gifted in the Will.

Chargeable gift

Gifts which may be liable for Inheritance Tax.


Any item of material and movable personal property. For example, jewellery, cars, furniture or animals.


A document amending a Will.

Contingent Legacy

Any gift that is made with certain conditions attached.


The beneficiary of an estate in the event the deceased died intestate and without any kin.

Deed of variation

A legal document allowing beneficiaries to change certain terms of a Will.


A gift of freehold property.


Any payment made to a third party.

Discretionary Trust

A way of managing assets in which a trustee, not the settlor, decides how and when certain beneficiaries will receive their capital.

Estate administration solicitors

Specialist probate lawyers who provide help with range of matters, including Grant of Probate Inheritance tax, disputed Wills and more.

Excepted Estate

An estate that is not liable for Inheritance Tax.


A male individual responsible for administration of an estate.


A female individual responsible for administration of an estate.

Grant of Letters of Administration

Grant of Representation in cases where the deceased has died intestate.

Grant of Probate

Grant of Representation in cases where there is a Will.

Grant of Representation

The document issued by the Probate Registry giving permission to administer the deceased's estate.


A person appointed to act on behalf of and in the best interests of a child under the age of 18 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Inheritance Tax

Tax payable on the value of an estate or on trusts and gifts during the deceased's lifetime.

Intestacy Rules

The rules governing the apportioning and administration of a deceased person's estate in the event that he or she has died without having created a Will.


The person or state of dying without leaving a valid Will.


A monetary or material gift left in a will (not including property).


A beneficiary of a cash legacy.

Letters of Administration

Where there is no will and no executors, this document, which is issued by the Registrar, outlines who will handle the administration of the estate.

Letters of Wishes

A letter of wishes can provide loved ones with additional information such as small personal items to be given as gifts to loved ones, or details of where important paperwork is kept, or for more personal information, such as specific requests for funeral arrangements.

Life interest

The right to enjoy money or property for life, which, upon death, will then return to the estate.

Moveable property

Any material possession other than buildings or land.

Next of Kin

The deceased's closest blood relatives.

Nil Rate Band Allowance

The value of an estate that can be passed to beneficiaries without Inheritance Tax liability.

Nominated Property

Assets legally given to a beneficiary outside of a Will or estate.

Notary Public

A person authorised to carry out specific legal formalities, usually in relation to the drafting and certification of contracts, deeds, and other documents for use in other jurisdictions.

Pecuniary Legacy

A gift of money made in a Will or codicil.

Personal Representative

The executor or executrix, or administrator or administratrix, charged with dealing with the estate.

Potentially exempt transfer (PET)

Inheritance Tax exempt gifts made at least seven years before death gift.


A person who dies before the deceased has made the Will.

Probate Registry

Part of the Family Division of the High Court. Handles non-contentious Probate matters and issues Grants of Representation.

Residuary Estate

The "net Estate" once debts, expenses and other liabilities have been paid out.

Reversionary interest

Benefit from a trust property.

Specific Gift

Something specifically gifted in a Will or Codicil.


A man who makes a valid Will.


A woman who makes a valid Will.


A legally enforceable document setting out what a person wishes happen to their estate and assets after death.

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