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10 Wills and Probate

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1. Introduction

2. Why should I make a will?

3. What makes a will valid?

4. Who can be a witness?

5. What does an executor or administrator do?

6. What is probate?

7. Will I have to pay inheritance tax?

8. Who takes charge if there is no will?

9. Who gets the estate if there is no will?

10. What can I do if I think there is something wrong with the will?

11. What can I do if I think the will is unfair?

12. What if there isn´t enough money to pay for the funeral?

13. What if there isn´t enough money to pay the person´s debts?

14. Terms used in wills and probate matters

Administrator
The person who deals with (administers) the estate of a person who has died intestate (without a will).

Bequest
A gift of a particular object (for example, an item of jewellery).

Child
In will or intestacy matters, the children of the person who has died include adopted children and illegitimate children (children born to parents who were unmarried), but not their stepchildren (unless they are specifically mentioned).

Common-law spouse
This term has no legal force, although a partner who lived with the person who died for two years before their death may be able to claim a share of the estate.

Devise
A gift of a house or land.

Demise
A lease of a house or flat.

Estate
All the assets and property of the person who has died, including all houses, cars, investments, money and belongings.

Executor
The person appointed in the will to deal with the estate of a person who has died.

Inheritance tax
The tax that may have to be paid when the total estate of a person who has died is more than a certain amount (currently £312,000).

Intestate
Without a will, or a person who dies without having made a will.

Issue
All the descendants of a person (children, grandchildren, great - grandchildren and so on).

Legacy
A gift of money (usually a specific amount).

Letters of administration
The document issued to the administrators by the Probate Registry to authorise them to deal with the estate.

Life interest
The right to receive the income or benefit from a property or capital sum (but not to get the capital sum itself) for life.

Minor
A person under 18.

Next of kin
In will or intestacy matters the person entitled to the estate when a person dies intestate (without a will).

Nil Rate Band
The value of an estate up to which inheritance tax is not payable.

Personal chattels
Personal belongings, including jewellery, furniture, wine, pictures, books and cars (but not money, investments, property or business assets).

Personal Estate (Personalty)
All the investments and belongings of a person apart from land and buildings.

Personal representative
A general term for administrators and executors.

Probate of the will
The document issued to executors by the probate registry to authorise them to deal with the estate.

Proving the will
Making the application for probate to the probate registry.

Probate registry
A court within the Family Division of the High Court which deals with probate and administration matters. The Principal Registry is in London and there are district registries in other cities and some large towns.

Real estate (realty)
Land and buildings owned by a person.

Remainder man
The person who gets the property or capital sum after the death of the person holding a ‘life interest’

Residue
What is left to share out after all the debts, inheritance tax and specific bequests and legacies have been paid.

Specific bequests
Particular items gifted by the will. They may be called ‘specific legacies’.

Testator
A person who makes a will. Testatrix is sometimes used to mean a female will-maker.

Will
The document in which you say what will happen to your money and your possessions on your death.

15. Further help

16. About this leaflet

The leaflets in this series give you an outline of your legal rights. They are not a complete guide to the law, nor do they explain how the law will apply to you or to any specific situation. The leaflets are regularly updated, but the law may have changed since this was printed, so information in it may be incorrect or out of date.

If you have a problem, you will need to get more information or personal advice to work out the best way to solve it. See 'Further help' for sources of information and advice.

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC).

Leaflet version: January 2009

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