Here is a back-of-an-envelope guide to some of the more frequently used terminology in a solicitors office.
A bequest is a gift that is made under a Will. It can be anything from the gift of a small memento, or a specific object or sum of money, to the gift of everything that someone owns. Someone to whom a bequest is made is called a "beneficiary".
A codicil is a document that amends an existing Will. It is a convenient way of making relatively minor changes without having to re-write the whole Will from scratch.
Estate is everything that a person owns when they die - their savings, house, shares, business interests: everything.
An executor is the person who ensures that the terms of the Will are implemented. It is the Executor's job to organise and look after the property owned by a deceased person, and then to pass it on to those who are named in the Will.
Guardianship. When a parent dies leaving a child aged less than sixteen years of age, he or she may wish to appoint a Guardian to look after that child. The Guardian acts as a kind of substitute parent and is said to exercise Guardianship over the child.
Intestacy is when one dies without making a valid Will.
Jurisdiction is the area (usually a country) in which a set of legal rules operate. Thus, France has a different jurisdiction to that of Germany because different laws operate in each country. The UK is slightly unusual in that although it is one country, it has three separate jurisdictions. These are (a) Scotland, (b) England & Wales, and (c) Northern Ireland. Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man also form separate jurisdictions.
A legacy is much the same as a bequest: it is a gift that is made under a Will.
Legal Rights are those rights automatically given to a spouse, civil partner or child to inherit from their spouse's, civil partner's or parent's Estate. In other words it is not possible to totally disinherit your spouse, civil partner or child: they will always have an entitlement to receive part of your Estate on your death. This entitlement is known as their "Legal Right". How much they are entitled to receive varies depending on circumstances.
Residue is everything that is left of your Estate after payment of your debts, funeral expenses and any specific gifts that are made under your Will.
Testamentary is something relating to your Will.
A trust is where property is held by one person for the benefit of another. Trusts can be useful where you don't want someone to have total control over the property that you have gifted to them (eg. if you leave money to a young child, you might want their parent to look after the gift for them until they are old enough to look after it themselves). Trusts can also be used to help with tax planning.
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