LEGAL TERMS EXPLAINED

Click on the following alphabet letter to view the associated legal terms.

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  • Acknowledgement of Service

    The form sent to the Respondent by the court when divorce proceedings are started. The purpose of the form is to inform the court whether the Respondent received the divorce papers, whether he or she intends to defend the proceedings and whether he or she objects to paying the Petitioner's legal costs.

  • Administer

    To collect in the assets, pay all debts owed by the estate and distribute the rest to the beneficiaries.

  • Administrator

    The person appointed by law to carry out the administration of an estate

  • Advance Decision

    An Advance Decision is the formal name for a ‘Living Will’. It allows you to indicate that you wish to refuse certain types of medical treatment, should you be unable to make or communicate a decision about your treatment in the future.

  • Affidavit

    A written statement sworn on oath.

  • Answer

    A form that the Respondent sends to the court if they object to the divorce.

  • Assent

    A deed of assent transfers a property title of a deceased person into the name of the beneficiary. The written document states that the administrator of the estate agrees to the title transfer

  • Assets

    House, land, stocks, shares, money or any other item that belongs to the deceased at the time he or she dies

  • Assignment

    A Deed of Assignment allows one party to transfer ownership of something they own such as a house or endowment policy to someone else and is often used in relation to leasehold property

  • Attorneys

    Individuals named by you to deal with your affairs on your behalf during your lifetime either in an EPA or LPA.

  • Bankruptcy Search

    This is a search carried out against your name which would reveal any bankruptcy order. This would be carried out on any normal conveyancing transaction.

  • Beneficiary

    A person or organisation such as a Charity who has been left something in the Will

  • Bequest

    A gift left to a person or organisation in your Will

  • Boundaries

    Every property has precise legal boundaries. These are the invisible lines separating the land owned by one person from that owned by a neighbour. They may or may not coincide with the physical boundary features on the ground like fences or walls and are not shown on Ordnance Survey maps.

  • CAFCASS

    Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. CAFCASS is an independent body instructed by the court to prepare reports regarding the children.

  • Caveat

    This is how you warn the Probate Registry that you have a claim against a particular estate. You get told when someone applies for a Grant, which cannot be issued until your objection has been dealt with

  • Certificate Provider

    Someone you choose to confirm that you understand the Lasting Power of Attorney and are not being pressurised into making it.

  • Chattels

    Belongings such as furniture, pets, car, boat etc.,

  • Child Arrangement Orders

    The Children and Families Act 2014 introduces child arrangements orders, replacing residence and contact orders. A child arrangements order means an order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following:-

    a) With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact;

    b) When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.

  • Child maintenance

    Regular payments made by one parent to the other for the financial support of the children

  • Civil Partner

    A Civil Partnership is a legally recognised relationship between two people of the same sex. A Civil Partnership (once registered) confers many of the same rights and responsibilities as does a marriage.

  • Clean Break

    An Order stating that all current and future claims arising between parties in financial proceedings are dismissed

  • Codicil

    A second document similar to a Will which makes an alteration or addition to a Will

  • Cohabitation

    Where two people live together as a couple and have not married or entered into a civil partnership.

  • Cohabitation Agreement

    A document entered into before a couple start living together that sets out how property, debts, income and other assets shall be dealt with during the relationship and how they will be divided should they separate

  • Cohabitee

    Someone who is living with someone but is not married or in a civil partnership

  • Collaborative Law

    Clients and solicitors work together in a series of four-way meetings, to try to find a fair solution.

  • Commonhold

    Under the commonhold system, there is no landlord, and every resident or 'unit holder' in the property has equal rights. So each 'unit-holder' effectively owns their own flat as a freehold plus a share in the common structure. This is not very common in the UK.

  • Completion Date

    This is the date fixed for transfer of ownership of property on payment of the price. This is usually between two and four weeks after exchange of contracts.

  • Conditional Legacy

    A gift subject to the fulfilment of a condition (e.g. “I leave my car to my eldest son on condition he passes his A-Levels”)

  • Consent Order

    A legal document setting out the agreement reached in relation the finances which is sent to the court for approval to make it legally binding on both parties.

  • Contested Divorce

    This is where one party to divorce proceedings, or the court, does not accept the grounds for a divorce.

  • Conveyance

    This is the document which transfers ownership of property if it not registered at the Land Registry.

  • Conveyancing

    Conveyancing is transferring the ownership of land.

  • Co -Respondent

    The person with whom your spouse has committed adultery.

  • Court of Protection

    The Court of Protection was created under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It has jurisdiction over the property, financial affairs and personal welfare of people who lack mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. Among its various roles the Court of Protection is responsible for determining disputes as to the registration of Enduring Powers of Attorney, and Lasting Powers Attorney, appointing new trustees, authorising certain gifts and making statutory Wills. The Court of Protection would appoint a Deputy if there was no Attorney appointed to act under a valid LPA or EPA.

  • Cross Petition

    A divorce petition issued by the Respondent when they argue for different grounds for the divorce than stated in the petition.

  • Crown

    The State. If you don’t have a Will and have no relatives, your estate goes to the Crown

  • Debts or Liabilities

    Monies owed or outstanding (e.g. tax, last gas and electricity bills, hire purchase arrangements)

  • Decree Absolute

    The final court order bringing the marriage to an end.

  • Decree Nisi

    A conditional court order which confirms that you are entitled to apply for the final order of divorce after a set period of time

  • Deposit

    This is part of the purchase price paid upon exchange of contracts and is usually 10%.

  • Deputy

    A person appointed by the Court of Protection to make decisions on someone’s behalf when they lack capacity to do so.

  • Directions for Trial

    A document sent to the court by the Petitioner within divorce proceedings (together with an Affidavit and the Respondent’s signed Acknowledgement of Service form) requesting that the Judge consider the papers and grant Decree Nisi.

  • Disclosure

    Providing full and frank financial details

  • Discretionary Trust

    Where property is left in a Will to trustees whose discretion it is to decide who should receive it

  • Dissolution

    The legal process for ending a civil partnership

  • Divorce

    The legal process for ending a marriage. The divorce itself does not include settling finances or arrangements for any children of the marriage.

  • Divorce Petition

    The form that needs to be completed to start the divorce procedure

  • Domestic abuse

    This can include violence, threats of violence, controlling someone’s movements or behaviour, verbal abuse and denying a person access to money.

  • Donor

    This is the individual creating the Lasting Power of Attorney and giving power over their affairs to Attorneys

  • Enduring Powers of Attorney

    Enduring Powers of Attorney were discontinued in October 2007. EPAs set up prior to then are still valid. LPAs replaced EPAs. An EPA does not allow your attorneys to make decisions about your health and welfare.

  • EPA

    An abbreviation for Enduring Power of Attorney

  • EPC

    An ‘Energy Performance Certificate’ rates your home from A to G on how efficiently it uses energy. These must come from an accredited Energy Assessor who visits the property to collect the relevant data and provide the certificate. This data includes the date, construction and location of the house, and relevant fittings such as heating systems, insulation or double-glazing.

  • Estate

    All your possessions, car, property and money. In other words everything you leave behind

  • Excepted Estate

    This is where the tax man makes an exception for smaller estates with no tax. The is the current Nil Rate Band of £325,000

  • Exchange of contracts

    This is the exchange of one copy of the contract signed by the buyer for another signed by the seller. At this point both parties are committed to proceed with the sale/purchase.

  • Executor(s)

    The person, people or organisation(s) named in your Will to ensure its instructions are carried out

  • Executrix

    A female Executor

  • Financial Remedy or Relief Proceedings

    The term used for financial proceedings within a divorce or dissolution

  • Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment

    This is the second court appointment within financial remedy proceedings. The purpose of this appointment is for the judge to consider all of the evidence and try to help the parties reach an agreement

  • First Appointment

    This is the first court appointment in financial remedy proceedings where the judge decides what financial information is required to determine the case

  • Freehold

    The majority of houses in the UK are freehold. This means that the owner of the freehold - or freeholder - owns both the property and the land on which the property stands outright. The freeholder is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the property.

  • Getting a Grant

    This is asking the court for a certificate saying you are the person with authority to sort things out and distribute the estate to the persons named as beneficiaries. If there is a Will you will be issued with a “Grant of Probate”, if there is no Will you will be issued with a “Grant of Letters of Administration”.

  • Guarantees

    The property you buy may have the benefit of guarantees for example in relation to double-glazing, woodworm, roofing etc.

  • Guardians

    Individuals nominated in a Will to look after the physical and emotional wellbeing of children.

  • Health and Welfare LPA

    A legal document enabling you to name others to deal with your health related affairs on your behalf during your lifetime.

  • IHT

    An abbreviation for Inheritance Tax

  • Inheritance Tax

    Tax you pay on what you own when you die

  • Intestacy Rules

    These rules say who gets what if you leave family but no Will. They also explain who can be the Administrator.

  • Intestate

    A person who dies with no Will or no valid Will

  • Joint Tenancy

    A form of joint ownership of land in which both parties share the whole title to the property. If one party dies the survivor will own the entire property

  • Judicial Separation

    A court procedure similar to divorce. You will receive a Court document recording your separation but you remain legally married. It is used for example where couples for whatever reason do not want to divorce but wish to formally record they are separated.

  • Land Registry

    The Land Registry deal with the registration of land and property on an electronic register. The sale, purchase and transfer of property as well as mortgages and some other transactions are compulsory in England and Wales.

  • Lasting Power of Attorney

    A legal document enabling you to name others to deal with your affairs on your behalf during your lifetime.

  • Lease

    This is a legal document outlining the terms under which one party agrees to rent property from another party. A lease guarantees the lessee (the person renting) use of an asset and guarantees the lessor (the property owner or landlord) regular payments from the lessee for a specified number of months or years. Both the lessee and the lessor must uphold the terms of the contract for the lease to remain valid.

  • Leasehold

    Leasehold means that you own the property for a set number of years, as specified in the lease - this can be anything between 99 to 999 years. The flat can still be bought and sold within that period. Practically all flats in the UK are sold on a leasehold basis.

  • Legacy

    A gift or money or a particular item. Another word for “bequest” (see above)

  • Lender Valuation

    A lender will carry out a valuation before making a mortgage offer. The Lender’s Valuer will only value the property and this should not be classed as a survey as it does not look in detail at the property and is sometimes carried out from the roadside.

  • Letters of Administration

    The legal procedure to establish that you are the person authorised by the Court to administer a persons estate. The Court will issued a sealed and bound certificate called a “Grant of Letters of Administration”.

  • Lifetime Gift

    A gift made during your lifetime

  • Living Will

    The informal name for an ‘Advance Decision’

  • Local Search

    The search is in the registers maintained by the local council in relation to such matters as road charges and planning decisions. The expression includes the enquiries made of different departments of the council to do with a wide range of other matters which may affect the property. Apart from road proposals affecting land within 200 metres of the property, the Local Authority search will only give information about the property itself. The search will give no information about other property, for example, the development of neighbouring land. If, therefore, you are concerned about the possibility of development or any matter relating to other property in the neighbourhood you should make enquiries of the Local Authority before you exchange contracts on the purchase.

  • Losing Capacity

    To be unable to make or communicate your own decisions by reason of physical or mental impairment.

  • LPA

    An abbreviation for Lasting Power of Attorney.

  • Maintenance pending Suit

    An application made during the divorce proceedings for maintenance payments to be made by one spouse to the other during the course of the proceedings.

  • Mediation

    A process whereby the parties are encouraged to discuss the issues with the help of a trained mediator, who is independent. It is not relationship counselling but an opportunity for the parties to try to resolve any aspect following a separation.

  • Mortgage Deed

    This is the document recording the loan of money secured on the property. If payments are not maintained the lender may have the right to take possession and sell the property.

  • Mortgage Offer

    This sets out the terms and conditions upon which a lender will make an offer of a mortgage to you. These need to be carefully checked and complied with.

  • Named Person

    Someone who you wish to inform that you have made a Lasting Power of Attorney and you are now going to register it.

  • Nil Rate Band

    This is the tax-free allowance of your estate which is currently £325,000. This will remain at £325,000 until 2014-15.

  • Non-Molestation Order

    An Order made by the Court to protect someone who has suffered domestic abuse

  • Oath

    In general all evidence must be on oath. An oath is a solemn appeal (usually to God) to witness that some statement is true.

  • Occupation Order

    An Order made by the court setting out who is entitled to occupy a matrimonial home.

  • Office of the Public Guardian

    The OPG is a government body that, within the framework of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, protects the private assets and supervises the financial affairs of people who lack mental capacity for making decisions. It is an executive agency of the ministry of justice. The OPG was established on 1 October 2007, replacing the Public Guardianship Office (PGO). This is the body that manages the registration and use of Lasting Powers of Attorney.

  • Official Copies

    These are copies of the electronic ‘title register’, ‘title plan’ and other documents which relate to a property’s title and which are held by the Land Registry.

  • Parental Responsibility

    This refers to the rights and responsibilities a parent has for his or her child.

  • Pension Sharing

    The division of a pension fund between spouses in divorce

  • Pecuniary Legacy

    The gift of a sum of money

  • Periodical Payments

    Regular payments that are made by one spouse to another on divorce.

  • Petitioner

    The party who files the petition at court is known as the Petitioner. This will be you, if you are bringing the divorce.

  • Preliminary Enquiries

    This is a series of questions addressed to the seller, who is expected to answer from his own knowledge about such matters as disputes with neighbours or work done on the property needing building regulation approval or rights enjoyed over the property.

  • Prenuptial Agreement

    A document entered into before marriage that sets out how property, debts, income and other assets shall be divided should the couple get divorced.

  • Prohibited Steps Order

    A court order prohibiting certain actions of either or both parents in connection with the upbringing of their children, such as moving out of the country or changing a child’s surname.

  • Property Adjustment Order

    An order that one party should transfer the ownership or interest in a property to the other in financial relief proceedings.

  • Pecuniary Legacy

    The gift of a sum of money

  • Personal Chattels

    Belongings such as furniture, pets, car, boat, etc.,

  • Probate

    The legal procedure to establish that a Will and Codicil are genuine and valid, and is evidence that executors have the authority from the Court to carry out the terms of the Will. The Court will issued a sealed and bound.

  • Property & Financial Affairs LPA

    A legal document enabling you to name others to deal with your financial affairs on your behalf during your lifetime.

  • Registration of Title

    Ownership of unregistered land is proved by showing its recent history as recorded in the “deeds”. In all areas of the country title to land now has to be registered in one of the registries maintained by the Land Registry on completion of a purchase. The Register records ownership and all important details of rights and liabilities.

  • Residuary Legacy

    A gift of what is left over from your estate when all other obligations have been met. This can be left wholly to one beneficiary or it can be divided between beneficiaries – for example, between two favourite charities

  • Residue

    What’s left of your estate after all debts and expenses have been deducted, and all bequests have been paid (except residuary legacies)

  • Respondent

    The respondent is the party who does not start the divorce proceedings but who receives the papers from the court.

  • Reversionary Interest

    A gift of property subject to a prior interest. For example a house that has been given to someone for the rest of their life: on their death, the house goes to charity.

  • Revoke

    To legally cancel a Will

  • Rules of Intestacy

    Another term for Statutory Order. A set of legal rules as set out in the Administration of Estates Act which determines who will inherit your property when you are one if you do not leave a Will.

  • Searches

    As well as a ‘local search’, there are also various other searches that can be carried out against the property or land that you are buying such as Environmental Searches, Flood Searches, Drainage and Water Searches. If you have a lender it is often the case that they will require you to have these carried out, although even if you do not have a lender we would always recommend that you have these because you would buy a property subject to what would be revealed in these.

  • Separation Agreement

    An agreement setting out the agreement reached in relation to financial matters as a result of a couple separating. It applies to married and unmarried couples.

  • Specific Issue Order

    An order to resolve a particular issue in dispute relating to a child or children

  • Specific Legacy

    A gift of a particular named item in your Will (such as a Piece of jewellery or shares)

  • Spousal maintenance

    Regular payments for on-going financial support that are to be made by one spouse to the other following a divorce

  • Spouse

    The person to whom the deceased was legally married

  • Stamp Duty Land Tax

    This is a tax payable upon the completion of a purchase or lease and some transfers of property. If it is payable it is based upon a percentage of the purchase price or market value.

  • Standing Search

    This is how you find out who applies for a grant in the estate. For a small fee, the Probate Registry sends you a copy as soon as it is issued.

  • Statement of arrangement for children

    A form which is sent to the court at the same time as the divorce petition setting out the proposed arrangements for the children

  • Statutory Order

    Another term for Rules of Intestacy. A set of legal rules as set out in the Administration of Estates Act which determines who will inherit your property when you are gone if you do not leave a Will.

  • Survey

    The nature of the structure, the quality of construction of the property nor the services leading to and from the property are checked by your solicitor. Such matters are dealt with by a Surveyor who will produce a survey report for you.

  • Swearing the Oath

    This means promising the Court that the information contained in the oath is true and that you will administer the estate correctly.

  • Substitute Attorneys

    Individuals named by you to deal with your affairs on your behalf during your lifetime should your initial Attorneys become unable to act.

  • Tenancy in Common

    A form of property ownership in which separate shares are agreed (usually when the property is purchased). If one of the owners dies their share will form part of their estate and will not automatically belong to the survivor unlike Joint Tenants.

  • Testamentary Expenses

    The expenses of the Executors in dealing with the Estate

  • Testator

    A man who makes a Will

  • Testatrix

    A woman who makes a Will

  • Title Deeds

    To prove ownership of land or property that is not registered, the owner or lender (if there is a mortgage) will have a bundle of documents which would normally show the chain in the line of ownership of the land or property over a number of years.

  • Title Plan

    Title plans are held by the Land Registry and are based on an extract of the Ordnance Survey map. They support the property description in the title register by giving a graphic representation of the registration.

  • Title Register

    This is an electronic register which the Land Registry hold which gives an up-to-date record of who legally owns the land or property and other details relating to it. Every title register is given a title number. The title register is the official record of the ownership of the land or property and replaces the traditional title deeds.

  • Transfer

    The document which transfers ownership.

  • Trust

    A fund set up by the deceased either by his Will or during his lifetime for a particular purpose

  • Trustee

    A person who manages the Trust

  • Trust Property

    Property named in a Will which is looked after by one set of individuals for the benefit of others

  • Uncontested or undefended divorce

    Where you and your spouse have agreed to obtain a divorce and there is no answer filed.

  • Will

    Is a set of instructions left by the deceased to tell their Executor what to do.