Inheritance Tax glossary

Common estate planning terms

Dealing with the affairs and estate of a person who has died including collecting their assets, paying their debts and paying the residue to the people who are to benefit.

A document giving evidence which is sworn in front of a solicitor or other person who can administer oaths.

Agricultural Property Relief (APR)
Relief from Inheritance Tax for the agricultural value of some farms and farmhouses (the value if the land and buildings could only be used for agricultural purposes and not the open market value). Various conditions apply including a minimum ownership period.

A person or organisation who will receive assets from the estate of the deceased.

Bequests and Legacies
Bequests and legacies are names for gifts lefts in a will.

Business Property Relief 

Relief from Inheritance Tax for businesses, a minimum ownership period applies and the business or interest in the business must fulfil the conditions.

A notice entered at the Probate Registry, for example if you have entered a caveat you will be warned before any Grant of Representation is issued.

Assets of a person other than land for example jewellery, ornaments, clothes, cars, animals, furniture and so on.


A charity is an organisation that has as its aim purposes are exclusively “charitable” (as recognised by law); for example the relief of poverty or promoting education. Charities can be structured in a variety of ways, for example as a company with a board of directors or as a trust fund with a board of trustees. Charities must be for the public benefit. Most charities must register with the Charities Commission. Charities are strictly regulated.

An addition to a will which may change, modify, delete, extend or add to a will.

Deed of Variation 
A document that can vary the division of a person’s estate after they have died either by changing their will retrospectively or altering the persons entitled on an intestacy (where there is no will or the beneficiaries no longer exist). This must be done within 2 years of the person’s death.

Discretionary Trusts 
A trust where the trustees can choose which beneficiaries (if any) should receive income and or capital.  They are a flexible way of setting property aside for the benefit of one or more persons.

Your domicile will affect whether you pay Inheritance Tax or particular assets and can affect how much Inheritance Tax you pay. Domicile is not the same as residence.

All the property and assets of the person who has died.

This is the personal representative who has been appointed by the will or codicil.

A guardian will have parental responsibility for any child (under 18) of whom they are named guardian. Parental responsibility means legal authority to act in relation to a child on such matters as medical care, where they are to live, their education, what surname they should be known by. Guardians may be appointed by a parent who has parental responsibility, an existing guardian or the Court. If you name a guardian in your will the appointment may not take effect if your child has a surviving parent with parental responsibility.

Inheritance Tax 
A tax on the value of a person’s estate on their death and also on the value of certain gifts made by an individual during their lifetime. You may be subject to Inheritance Tax on all your assets everywhere in the world if you are domiciled in England & Wales.  Inheritance Tax also applies to most types of trusts and may be charged when assets are added to or leave the trusts and on the 10 yearly anniversaries of the trust’s creation.

The rules that govern where a person’s estate is to pass and who can deal with the estate in the absence of a will.

Joint Tenancy 
A way of co-owning land and other property. On the death of one of the co-owners the other takes their share by survivorship. For example if you and your spouse own your home as joint tenants it will automatically pass to the surviving spouse when one of you dies. Your share of your house will not be part of your estate as it passes automatically.

Letters of Administration 
A grant of representation on where there is no valid will, or there is a will but no executor appointed.

Life Tenant 
This is a person who is entitled to benefit from a trust during their lifetime. They cannot have the capital in the trust fund; they are entitled only to the income or enjoyment of the property for example if the trust fund was a house the beneficiary would be entitled to live there.

Personal Representative 
The person who is dealing with the administration of the estate of the person who has died.

Potentially Exempt Transfer (PET)
This is an outright gift lifetime by an individual to another individual or certain types of trusts.  If the giver (donor) survives the gift by 7 years it will become completely exempt from Inheritance Tax, and will be outside the donor’s estate for the purposes of calculating Inheritance Tax.

Power of Attorney 
This is a formal document giving legal authority from one person (the donor) to another (the attorney) so that the Attorney may act on behalf of their principal. Power of Attorney may be an ordinary General Power or it may be a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Lasting Power of Attorney 

A Lasting Power of Attorney can relate to your property and affairs or your personal welfare i.e. decisions about your medical treatment. In order to make a Lasting Power of Attorney you must have mental capacity to do so which must be certified by a certificate provider.  An ordinary General Power of Attorney will come to an end if you lose your mental capacity but a Lasting Power of Attorney will not.

Probate (Grant of) 
The ‘Proving’ of a will by sending it to the Probate Registry.

The remainder of the estate of the person who has died after all their debts have been paid and any specific gifts they make under their will have also been paid.

Revocation (of will) 

This is the process by which someone cancels or takes back a will (or codicil) made previously when they no longer intend that will to take effect. The Testator (person who made a will or codicil) must have mental capacity to revoke the will (or codicil). The effect of revocation is that any earlier will is resurrected and will take effect as if the later cancelled will  does not exist. If there is no previous will then the person revoking their will becomes intestate. Most new wills contain an explicit clause stating that they revoke any previous wills. There are formal requirements for revocation of a will as there are for making a will.

Statutory Legacy 

If a person dies intestate with a spouse or civil partner the statutory legacy is the amount of the deceased’s estate that their spouse or civil partner will receive, a common misconception is that the spouse or civil partner will automatically receive all of the estate of the person who has died intestate but this is not necessarily the case if there are surviving children and it is therefore desirable to make a will to ensure that your spouse or civil partner inherits all that you intend them to take.

The person making a will (male or female).

A Trust 

One or more persons hold property for the benefit of others (the beneficiaries). A trustee is the person who is acting in the trust and holds the property for the benefit of someone else

A Will 
The formal document known as a testamentary disposition by which somebody confirms their wishes as to the division of their estate on death.