Glossary of UK Probate Terms



When a person dies intestate (i.e. without leaving a Will), a relative will be appointed to enable them to make a distribution of funds to the beneficiaries once the assets and liabilities have been identified and settled. Also called Letters of Administration.

Administration (with Will annexed)

If the executors named in a Will not be in a position to act, Letters of Administration are usually granted to next of kin to enable the estate to be dealt with as per the terms of the Will.

Administrator (or Administratrix)

A person appointed via Letters of Administration to deal with the estate of the Deceased upon intestacy.



A person entitled to benefit from an intestacy, a Will or other asset.

Bona Vacantia

Term meaning “ownerless goods” referring to instances where someone dies with no known next of kin or heirs.



A warning notice lodged with the probate court to prevent a Grant of Representation being issued.


An amendment made by the Deceased to their Will.

Commission (or ‘Contingency’) fee

The fee due to the probate researchers (or heir hunters) only upon successful location of beneficiaries; usually represented as a percentage.



An Estate consists of the Deceased’s assets (property, bank accounts, etc) and any outstanding debts/taxes (mortgage, inheritance tax, etc).

Executor (or Executrix)

The person named by the Testator who is responsible for ensuring the terms of the Will are carried out.

Executor Dative (or Executrix Dative)

The person appointed to deal with the administration of a Scottish intestacy.



The study of families, the family history, and their lineages.

Grant of Representation

A grant giving someone the legal right to deal with the Deceased’s estate. A Grant of Probate refers to testate estates. A Grant of Letters of Administration refers to an intestate estate.


Heir Hunters

Heirs to Unclaimed Funds

Popular term for Probate Researchers, Probate Genealogists, Forensic Genealogists or Heir Locators (as a result of the BBC’s “Heir Hunters” series).

Funds and Assets that have been left unclaimed.


Inheritance Tax

A tax levied against the Deceased’s estate when valued above a certain threshold.


The condition of the Deceased’s estate where they have died without leaving a Will.

Intestacy Laws

The rules which determine what happens to an estate when a person dies intestate


A person who dies without leaving a Will. Also see Administration.



A beneficiary named in the Deceased’s Will.

Letters of administration


An insurance policy providing protection for the Administrator and beneficiaries of an estate against any future claims from potential heirs not included in the estate distribution.


Net entitlement

The sum due to beneficiaries at the point of distribution once the assets and liabilities have been realised.


Partial Intestacy

Where part of a Testator’s Will fails (usually upon a beneficiary predeceasing) which passes to next of kin as per an intestacy.


Probate is the evidence that a Will has been accepted by the court to enable the Executor(s) to act in accordance with the terms set out therein.

Probate Genealogists / researchers

Professional genealogical researchers who undertake research to trace a Deceased’s next of kin and heirs.



A document raised when an Executor renounces their role to act.

Residuary Estate

The balance left for distribution once the legacies set out in the Will have been deducted.


Testator (or Testatrix)

The Deceased who has made a Will.

Treasury Solicitor’s Office (Bona Vacantia Division)

The Treasury Solicitor acts on behalf of the Crown via the Government legal Department  to claim estates of deceased persons who die with no known entitled relatives.



A written statement whereby someone sets out their wishes on how they want their estate to be distributed upon death.