Below are some of the terms you’ll encounter, when discussing Estate Planning or making your Will. For obvious reasons, it cannot be an exhaustive list – so don’t hesitate to ask us, if you want more advice.
Beneficiary. A person(s), charity, or organisation that will receive a legacy or bequest from you in your Will.
Estate. Everything you own at the time of your death, including your business assets.
Executor. A person(s) of 18 or over, appointed by you to carry out your wishes as stated in your Will; they may also be beneficiaries. In many cases it is advisable to appoint a professional Executor to help family Executors.
Funeral Wishes. Help your executors, by setting out in your Will the basic arrangements you wish to be made for your funeral. For instance, do you wish to be buried or cremated, to have your ashes buried or scattered, a service to follow a particular religious rite etc?
Guardian. A person(s) you appoint to look after your children if they are under 18 at the time of your death. It is wise to nominate a reserve. A Guardian can also be an Executor. You should make financial provision for the care of your children.
Home Ownership. Property can be owned solely or jointly. When jointly owned, it may be held as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common. The type of tenancy can be changed to improve your opportunity to protect your home from a variety of threats.
Inheritance Tax (IHT). A tax paid on assets at death, currently charged at 40% on the value of your estate above £325,000. Up to that threshold is known as the Nil Rate Band. Some exemptions and personal reliefs are available and it is essential to plan early in order to maximize them
Intestacy. The term used when a person dies without a Will. Partial Intestacy describes circumstances when parts of a Will are incomplete or insufficient in their provision.
Legacy or Bequest. A specific gift of money, an item, property, or business assets that you leave to a beneficiary.
Medical Donation. You may wish to give your body, or parts of it, for medical research, training or transplant. Details may be included in your Will.
Parental Responsibility. A father who was not married to the mother at the birth of a child, born before 1st December 2003, has no automatic parental responsibility in law for the child. There are ways to rectify this.
Probate. The process, after your death, by which your affairs are settled and your Will is validated. Your Executor(s) will obtain a Grant of Probate before they can distribute your estate as you have instructed.
Residue. The remainder of your estate after all debts, taxes, expenses, legacies and bequests have been paid. A Residuary Beneficiary receives a share of your residuary estate.
Safeguarding your Will. A damaged, marked or lost Will is as bad as having no Will. The worst place to keep your Will is at home, unless it is in a fireproof safe – so consider where you will keep it and your other important documents.
Transfer of Nil Rate Band (NRB). The NRB is transferrable from one married or civil partner to another. If the first to die does not use it in full or only a proportion of it, the unused proportion will be available for use at the second death.
Trustee. A person(s) you appoint to manage Trust assets on behalf of beneficiaries, who are very often children. Trustees can be the same people as the Executors. You are able to specify their powers.
Will Trust. A legal instrument, used in a Will, to ensure that certain assets are protected for chosen beneficiaries from threats from third parties, one of which is Inheritance Tax.
Witnesses. Two independent witnesses must see you sign your Will; they do not have to read it. They must not be a beneficiary of your Will nor married to or a Civil Partner of a beneficiary.
And here are some terms, which relate to a Power of Attorney and an Advance Decisions (Living Will).
Advance Decision (or Living Will). This document falls under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. In case you should become so ill or severely incapacitated that you are unable to express your wishes about the type of treatment you wish to receive or to refuse, you can express them in advance in this separate document. It also enables you to nominate people (normally your closest family or friends) who must be consulted by your medical team in uncertain situations before any decision is made on your behalf about further treatment. An Advance Decision is a less costly alternative to a Personal Welfare LPA although it does not carry quite the same weight.
Attorney. You may have one or more attorneys – no more than 4 is advised. They should be people you trust totally as you are appointing them to make decisions on your behalf should you ever lose the capacity to do so yourself. They should be over the age of 18 when appointed and not be an un-discharged or interim bankrupt.
Certificate Provider. When making a LPA, a Certificate Provider, selected by you, certifies that you, as donor, know what powers you are giving to your attorneys, that you trust them and know what to expect of them and that you are not under any pressure from anyone else to make a LPA. A Certificate Provider provides an important safeguard for you.
Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA). This document is no longer available, having been superseded by Lasting Power of Attorney (LPAs), which offer better safeguards for the donor. An EPA, made before 1st October 2007, continues to be valid. If you have an EPA that has not been registered you may replace it with a LPA.
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). The Mental Capacity Act 2005 enables people to plan ahead for a time when they may not have mental capacity. It provides for decisions to be made on their behalf. This means that you, as a donor, can give someone else (an attorney) the power to act for you. There are two types of LPA: one dealing with Personal Welfare and medical issues, the other with Property and Affairs. The latter is similar in scope to an Enduring Power of Attorney.
Person(s) to be Notified. When the time comes to register a LPA, at least one person (other than your attorneys and up to five) has to be notified by the person(s) making the application that the application is being made. You nominate this person(s) when first making the LPA. If the person(s) does not consider it necessary for the LPA to be registered or is not happy on your account about anything he/she/they may send an objection to the OPG which will investigate the matter. This provides an important safeguard for you.
Registering a LPA. A LPA has no effect until it has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). You, as donor, or your attorneys can apply for it to be registered at any time.