The Language of Wills

The language of Wills is relatively old. Historically solicitors were paid by the word, so they used lots of flowery padding words to make Wills longer in words, so they got paid more. Also if they used flowery or complex words, it made them seem clever and so could charge more. To an extent the issue of solicitors having more knowledge than laypeople hasn’t changed. Hopefully we have an understanding of the law and the issues that relate to someone’s affairs and can give appropriate advice and yes, we charge for that work. But it takes a minimum of 6 years of study to become a solicitor after leaving school, so we’ve worked hard to get there; we also have to have ongoing training, so we continue to work hard. In my case it took me nearly 12 years to become a solicitor, as I did a part time degree. That’s a bit off the subject of the language of Wills though!!

So starting at the beginning, what is a Will? It is a document signed and appropriately witnesses made by someone during their lifetime about what they want to happen to their financial assets when they die. It is almost like a letter of wishes, as it can be changed at any time up until their death, as long as the changes are by documents signed and appropriately witnessed. I’m not mentioning Wills for servicemen in combat, issues of mutual Wills or issues relating to capacity, as they will just cloud the matter unnecessarily.

Moving on, what is an Executor, Executrix and Executrices and how are they difference from Administrators? An Executor is the person who deals with the administration of the estate; they are the pen pushers for want of a better phrase, although they can choose to instruct a professional to act on their behalf. They are in charge of sorting it out and they are responsible for what happens. An Executrix is a female Executor and Executrices are multiple female Executors. If there is more than one and at least one is male, then they are Executors. An Administrator has the same kind of role in someone’s estate, generally where they haven’t left a Will or their Will does not appoint Executors or the appointment has failed for some reason.

What is a Grant of Probate? It is the Court “proving” of the last Will. A copy of the Will is returned by the Probate Registry to the Executor with copies of the Grant of Probate, which have an impressed seal in them. These office copies are used to deal with the administration of the estate.

What is a Beneficiary? Someone going to receive a gift from the deceased and a person can have 2 roles as both Executor and Beneficiary. What is a Minor Beneficiary? Someone going to receive a gift and at the date of death, they are under the age of 18 years. The point about age can be an issue, as when the gift if handed over, the Beneficiary should sign a receipt for the gift and someone under the age of 18 cannot sign the receipt and therefore cannot give “good receipt”.

The language can be complicated and seem confusing, but the task that is to be completed is to carry out the wishes of the deceased, which is a much simpler concept.

I’ll blog more on this, which will hopefully help.