Understanding Words and Terminology Used In A Will

Published / Last Updated on 08/02/2023

We have drafted hundreds of Wills for clients over the years and for clarity, the definitions of specific words, legal standards, historic reasons, precedent and common law, some words and many derived from Latin are still used in Wills.

To help you understand the contents of your Will, we have created the following list of words and our interpretation, not necessarily the exact 'dictionary' definition but the real meaning of in plain English:

  • Executor – person/people administering the Will i.e., dealing with your affairs.
  • Trustees – person/people entrusted to look after your money/property on death or if held in trust for children until a given age.
  • Testator – person making the Will.
  • Testatrix – old term for a female that is making a Will – rarely used today as it is ‘old school’.
  • Situate – where something was exactly at the time of death given that technically ‘situated’ is technically a past tense i.e., the asset’s location may have changed after death.
  • STEP Powers - means the standards, special clauses and provisions of the Special Provisions of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (2nd edition) – this is an industrywide and legally agreed standard set of clauses and definitions that may be needed to administer a will e.g., executor’s powers to insure property, pay the bills, sell a property, pay for funeral, open accounts etc.
  • Their Issue - issue means bloodline children and/or legally adopted children.
  • Per Stirpes - this means per branch of family e.g., two children = two new branches of the family.  E.g., Helen makes a will leaving her residual estate to her grandchildren living at her death in equal shares per stirpes.
  • Life Interest – an asset of yours is put in trust on your death and held for the benefit of e.g., your children.  This is very common for people to do with their homes where you give your home or your share of the home e.g., your half when jointly owned (using something called a severance of joint tenancy) to your children/beneficiaries on death but it is held in trust because you want your spouse, partner, friend or common law spouse to be able to continue to live in your property/your share of the property and use it for the rest of their lifetime (a lifetime interest).   Your children/beneficiaries then inherit your share on death of the person you have granted the life interest to or if they remarry, cohabit or move into a care home etc.

We hope the above explanation of some unusual but much used terms help you better understand your Will.

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