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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


    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. Once completion has take place you can now move in.


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

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

    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.

    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.

    Fixtures, Fittings & Contents Form

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


    Property and associated land is owned outright.

    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.

    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.

    Joint Tenants

    Joint Tenants have equal rights to the whole property and are each entitled to half of the sale proceeds. If a property is owned as joint tenants then on the death of one of the joint owners it passes automatically by way of survivorship to the surviving joint owner. Alternatively, a property can be owned as “tenants in common” which means that you would then be able to control the destination of your share of the property in your Will.

    Land Registration Fee

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


    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.

    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.

    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.

    Redemption Figure

    This is the amount required to repay your mortgage.


    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.

    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.

    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:-

    Tenants in Common

    A property owned as “tenants in common” means that two or more owners each have a separate share of the property. This can either be half each or a defined percentage. Unlike Joint Tenants, each person’s share is not passed automatically to the other owner/s when they die. Each owner can leave their share of the property to whoever they wish in their will.

    Title Deeds

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

    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.

  • Wills, Trusts and Probate Terms


    A beneficiary is a person to whom who you wish to leave a particular gift in your Will. They can be an individual, a charity or there may be a class of beneficiaries, e.g. grandchildren. If a beneficiary is under 18 then unless an alternative age is specified they will be entitled to their inheritance upon attaining the age of 18.

    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.

    Deed of Variation

    Where a beneficiary may wish to vary what is left to them so as to pass it on to someone else.


    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.


    Your Executors are the organisation, person or persons appointed by you to ensure that the instructions contained in your Will are carried out and 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.

    Your Executors will need to identify the size of your estate, pay any debts and funeral expenses before distributing the remainder of your estate in accordance with your Will.  This can be a complicated role and it is important that you consider your Executors carefully as it involves a great deal of responsibility.

    Grant of Representation

    A Grant of Representation is a document issued by the Probate Registry which authorises the Personal Representatives to administer the deceased’s estate. There are two basic types of Grant of Representation:

    • Grant of Probate: this is where a deceased person has left a Will and the Grant of Probate is issued to the Executors appointed
    • Grant of Letters of Administration: this is usually where the deceased person has not left a Will although it can be where a Will has been left but it is not proved by the Executors.


    If you have children, it is important to consider appointing a guardian to look after your children in the event of your death. The appointment of guardians does not take effect until all persons with parental responsibility have died. Mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their children. Fathers also have automatic
    parental responsibility if they are married to the mother at the time of the birth of the child or subsequently get married or become registered on their birth certificate after 1 December 2003. It is also possible to include a provision in your Will to provide your Executors with discretion to pay any costs/expenditure incurred by your guardians in the care of your children.

    Inheritance Tax

    Inheritance Tax is payable on your estate (subject to some exemptions) when you die. The first £325,000 of your estate, known as the “Nil‐Rate Band” is taxed at 0%. The value of the estate which exceeds the Nil‐Rate Band is taxed at 40%. Assets that pass to spouses/civil partners are exempt from Inheritance Tax. Based on the information you have provided, if we feel that your estate is likely to be subject to Inheritance Tax we may contact you to discuss your options if you so wish. Where someone dies on or after 9 October 2007 who had been in a marriage or civil partnership (and the marriage or civil partnership came to an end on death) the survivor’s personal representatives have a ‘permitted period’ in which to claim the unused nil rate band of the spouse or civil partner who has predeceased.


    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.

    Joint Tenants

    If a property is owned as joint tenants then on the death of one of the joint owners it passes automatically by way of survivorship to the surviving joint owner. Alternatively, a property can be owned as “tenants in common” which means that you would then be able to control the destination of your share of the property in your Will.

    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

    Residuary Estate

    Your Residuary Estate is what is left of your assets after your funeral expenses, debts, administration expenses, any Inheritance Tax and any specific gifts or cash gifts have been satisfied. It is possible to leave a percentage of your Residuary Estate to particular beneficiaries or a certain number of shares. It is important to consider who you would wish to receive any particular percentage/share of your Residuary Estate if the chosen beneficiaries predecease you, for example, if your Residuary Estate is gifted to your children, provision can be made for the children of a predeceasing child to receive the parent’s share.


    Upon signing your new Will any previous Will made by you will be revoked unless steps have been taken to avoid this. It is therefore important that you forward to us copies of any existing Wills and in particular any Wills made abroad so that your new Will can be prepared to ensure that any foreign Wills are not automatically revoked.

    Specific Gifts

    In your Will you can leave a specific item to a beneficiary, e.g. a certain item of jewellery or item of sentimental value. If that particular item is not within your possession at the time of your death, the gift will fail. It is also possible to leave any jewellery owned by you at the time of your death to a particular beneficiary. If you wish to leave a property to a beneficiary in your Will, please contact us to discuss this gift further as there are considerations that will need to be taken into account, e.g. if it is a property where there is a mortgage, who pays the costs of transfer etc.


    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.

  • Divorce and Separation terms

    Conditional Order (formerly Decree Nisi)

    Once 20 weeks have passed from the issue of a divorce application, a Conditional Order can be made. This is an order 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 minimum mandatory period between grant of Conditional Order and Final Order.

    Final Order (formerly Decree Absolute)

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

    Applicant (formerly Petitioner)

    The person who starts the divorce proceedings.


    In a sole application, the party against whom the application 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.

    Interlocutory Applications

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

    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.

    Particulars of Claim

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

    Protected Conversation

    A protected conversation allows an employer to have an ‘off the record’ chat with an employee to discuss issues, such as performance. The chat or discussion is ‘protected’ from being referred to if you later take your claim to an employment tribunal. There are strict rules controlling what your employer may talk to you about in a protected conversation.

  • Litigation, Debt and Insolvency Terms

    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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