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Legal terms can be unfamiliar and complex, but at Hegarty Solicitors we pride ourselves on making sure we use plain English to talk you through your case. Below we explain some common legal terms.

Conveyancing Terms


A conveyancer is a lawyer who specialises in buying or selling property (houses, flats, business premises or land).

Exchange of Contracts

Both the buyers and sellers sign a contract and their solicitors normally exchange them. On exchange both parties are committed to buy and sell the property. The deposit will have been paid and a completion date agreed. There are large financial penalties to pay if either side fails to complete after exchange.

Completion Date

This is the moving date. On the day of completion the balance purchase price is sent to the seller’s conveyancer. The sellers should have left the property and left the keys with the agents. The conveyancer will only allow the estate agent to release the keys once they have received the balance of the purchase price.

Title Deeds

Shows who owns the property, and if there are any rights or obligations attached to it.

Property Information Form

The seller completes this form to give general information about the property, for instance whether there have
been disputes with neighbours, any guarantees on the property and if they have made any alterations.

Fixtures, Fittings & Contents Form

The seller completes this form. It is a list of items being left or removed from the property on completion.

Transfer Deed

This document transfers the legal title from the name of the seller to the buyer and is sent to the land registry to register the new details.
Redemption Figure This is the amount required to repay your mortgage.


Property and associated land is owned outright.


The exclusive right to reside in a property for a fixed period of time e.g. 90 years or 999 years. At the expiry of the lease you will have to vacate the property or purchase another lease. This type of purchase may involve additional payments to the individual or company that owns the freehold – including maintenance or ground rent. You will also be limited by the lease as to how you can alter or use the premises.


Fees paid to third party companies that carry out specific tasks in the buying/selling process. For example the local authority for planning searches.

Stamp Duty Land Tax

If you purchase a residential property for over £125,000 you will have to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax to HMRC. The tax is charged at increasing rates for each portion of the price. There are different rules if you’re buying your first home and for additional residential properties.

Stamp Duty Land Tax can be complicated to calculate, HMRC have a handy calculator here:-

Conveyancer’s Fees

This is the cost for the work carried out by the conveyancer. Make sure you check whether this includes VAT. Find out how much your fees would be with our get a quote online service.

Fees For Acting For Lender

If you are having a mortgage, your mortgage company will ask your solicitor to act for them as well and will make it a term of your mortgage that you pay the fee.

Official Copies of the Title

When you are selling a property your conveyancer must apply for a copy of the title and title plan from the land registry. These are commonly referred to as ‘official copy entries’. If the property is unregistered these are not necessary.


The searches give information about the property. The main searches are:

  • Local authority – this looks at whether the council has adopted the road, planning applications and permissions and tree preservation orders.
  • Drainage – this shows if the property is connected to the mains water supply and sewerage system and if property is on a water meter.
  • Environmental – this will search to see if the property may be on contaminated land, land liable to flooding, subsidence or landslip, or is near a landfill site.
  • Land Registry – this will protect the buyer between exchange and completion and prevent any entries being made at the land registry.
  • Bankruptcy – all mortgage lenders require evidence that the buyer is not bankrupt.

Insurance Against Transaction Failure

At Hegarty Solicitors we give clients the option of purchasing our No Move No Fee insurance policy in case the transaction fails.

Land Registration Fee

This is for registering the new owners of the property at the land registry.

Help to Buy Equity Loan

With a Help to Buy: Equity Loan the Government lends you up to 20% of the cost of your newly built home, so you’ll only need a 5% cash deposit and a 75% mortgage to make up the rest.

You won’t be charged loan fees on the 20% loan for the first five years of owning your home.

Shared Ownership

Shared Ownership means that buyers can buy a share of a property (between 25% and 75% of the home’s value) and pay rent on the remaining share to a developer or housing association. You can take out a mortgage to pay for your share of the home’s purchase price but this will need to be approved by the developer or housing association. At a later date, you could buy bigger shares to increase your share of the property.

Trusts and Probate Terms


A Deputy is someone appointed by the Court to make decisions for someone who is mentally incapable of doing so on their own. A Deputy is responsible for making decisions for a mentally incapable person until either the death or recovery of that person. A Deputy is usually a close friend or relative of the person concerned but can be a professional such as a solicitor, or a local authority.


A Will is a document in which a person, called the Testator, appoints Executors to administer their estate after their death. The Executors are in charge of collecting all assets, paying any inheritance tax and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries as per the directions outlined in the Will. The document is signed and witnessed and must comply with certain legal requirements to be valid. It is therefore important to seek legal advice to ensure that your Will is valid.


If a valid Will is not made, you die subject to the intestacy rules. These are the statutory rules which have financial constraints and are rigid in their application.

The division of your estate under the intestacy rules depends on your surviving relatives. In the case of a Husband and Wife and two children, if the Husband were to die without a Will then the Wife will receive all the Husband’s personal belongings with a statutory legacy of £250,000 (or everything if the total is less) plus one half of any balance outright. The children will then receive the remaining half of the balance in equal shares. Where a person dies without a Will leaving a spouse but no children or other descendants, the whole estate passes to the spouse.

The intestacy rules do not apply to surviving partners who were not married or in a civil partnership with the deceased, or any stepchildren, therefore making a Will is important to ensure your family members receive their inheritance.


The Executors are in charge of collecting all assets, paying any inheritance tax and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries as per the directions outlined in the Will

Court of Protection

The Court of Protection is a specialist Court which deals with applications on behalf of people who have lost their mental capacity and are therefore unable to manage their own affairs. The Court has the power to appoint a ‘Deputy’ to deal with property and financial affairs and in some instances the health and personal welfare of the person who is no longer able to make their own decisions. The Court works alongside the Office of the Public Guardian to oversee the general management of the affairs.

Lasting Powers of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that enables you to appoint someone (known as an Attorney/Attorneys) to make decisions on your behalf at a future time when you may not be able to make such decisions.

You can create two types of LPA:

  • Property and Financial Affairs LPA
  • Health and Welfare LPA

Divorce terms

Collaborative Law

Very simply, the couple who are separating, and their lawyers, agree in writing to try and reach a reasonable settlement without going to court. The couple and their lawyers will have face-to-face meetings to talk through all the issues and come to an agreement. More information about Collaborative law can be found at the Peterborough Collaborative Law Group website.

Decree Nisi

Following a divorce petition, a decree nisi is a document that shows that the court is satisfied that all legal requirements have been met to proceed with a divorce. At this stage the divorce is not complete; there is a six week and one day minimum mandatory period between grant of decree nisi and decree absolute.

Decree Absolute

This is the final stage of divorce and the legal document that ends a marriage.


The person who starts the divorce proceedings.


The party against whom the petition is filed, the other spouse in divorce proceedings.

Employment Law Terms


Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as court fees.

Form ET1

The claim form outlining your case and the nature of the dispute.

Form ET3

The response form when a claim has been made against you.

Particulars of Claim

Document that sets out the factual detail of your claim, and the legal basis for it.

Making an Unless Order

If you do not comply with an order made by the Employment Tribunal you risk losing part (or all) of your claim/response.

Interlocutory Applications

A provisional decision given during the course of a legal action.

Litigation, Debt and Insolvency Terms


The legal status of a person or organisation that is unable to repay debts owned to its creditors.


A person making a claim.


Recompense for loss, injury, or suffering.


A person or organisation to whom money is owed.


An award, typically of money, paid to a person or organisation for loss or injury.


Disbursements are costs related to your matter that are payable to third parties, such as court fees.


Being unable to pay debts when they are due or where liabilities exceed assets.


The contest process before a court.


If you can’t find the legal term you are looking for, please contact your legal adviser or email us at The Solicitors Regulation Authority also has a handy guide to legal jargon

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