Administering solicitors

The solicitors instructed by the administrator to administer the estate.


Administration of the estate

The process of dealing with all the assets, liabilities and taxes of the estate, and then distributing the balance to the beneficiaries.


Administration of Estates Act (1925)

The Act under English and Welsh law that determines how a deceased person’s estate who dies without leaving a Will is controlled and distributed. You can find out more information here.

In Scotland, this is the Succession Act (1964).


Administrator / Administratix

A person appointed by a probate court to handle the distribution of the estate of someone who had died without a Will, or with a Will that fails to name someone to carry out the task.


Bona Vacantia

Latin for “ownerless goods” and is usually used to describe the part of the Government Legal Department (formally known as the Treasury Solicitor), who handle unclaimed estates and dissolved companies.


Common Law spouse (wife/husband)

There is a frequent misconception that a couple living together are ‘Common Law husband and wife’, however; under UK law, the only way a person can acquire the rights of a legal spouse is to enter into a civil partnership or get married.

The only way for an unmarried partner to inherit from the deceased is through a Will, or by taking the matter to court under the Inheritance (Provision For Family And Dependants) Act 1975.



The estate incorporates everything the deceased owned as well as the debts and taxes the deceased owed to others.


Executor / Executrix

The person named in a Will to administer the assets of someone who has died. They must collect and manage their property and assets and pay all debts and taxes before distributing the remainder. This must be in accordance with any directions in the Will.


First cousin

A child of the deceased’s aunt or uncle. Your first cousin shares the same grandparents are you.

A cousin becomes removed if you have to descend down a generation, ie. A child of your cousin.



The study of family ancestries and histories, including the record or account of the ancestry and descent of a person or family.



Also known as Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration. This is the formal procedure which will allow you to administer the deceased’s estate, proving to building societies, banks and other bodies that you have the authority to access any funds held in the deceased’s name. Once you receive the Grant, you become the administrator of the estate.



A person who is entitled to inherit from a deceased estate.


Inheritance (Provisions For Family And Dependants) Act 1975

An Act – in addition to the Administration of Estates Act (1925) – for the spouse, former spouse, unmarried spouse, child, child of the family or dependant of the deceased. You can find more information here.



When an individual dies without leaving a valid Will.



The state fact of being intestate at death.



The closet relatives, defined by law, of a deceased person.


Per stirpies

This is Latin for “by roots”, and is a term used to describe the distribution of an estate when each division receives an equal share. In England and Wales, this happens at the aunts and uncles of the deceased, whereas in Scotland, this is at the level of the oldest surviving heir.


Probate court

A specialised court (or division of a high court) that considers cases concerning the distribution of deceased people’s estates.


Probate researchers

Professional probate researchers work to trace extensive family trees, making connections between people are not linked in an obvious or straight-forward linear relationship. This allows heirs to be found for inheritances which would otherwise go to the state.


Section 27 notice

This is part of the Trustee Act (1925), which enables the trustees, personal representatives, executors or administrators to protect themselves from any creditor coming forwards after a notice has expired. You can find out more information here.



The person who has left a Will.


Vested interest

This is used to describe a person who has post-deceased the deceased – they are said to have a Vested Interest in the estate. This means that their entitlement will be dealt with via the instructions in their Will (if one was left).

This is part of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, which makes provisions for empowering the court to make orders from the deceased’s estate for the spouse, former spouse, unmarried spouse, child, children of the family or dependant of the deceased.



A document which specifies what is to be done with the assets that person will leave behind when they die. A Will should also name the Executor.