Wills and Executries – Legal Terms Explained

This is intended as a glossary of some of the most common legal terms which come up in the context of Wills and Executries (Probate) in Scotland.


The person who is entitled to receive funds or property from a Will or intestacy is known as the beneficiary.  There may be more than one beneficiary of a will.


This is a written amendment to a Will.


Confirmation is the legal document which gives the executor authority to fulfil the terms of the Will, receive payments due to the estate and to make payments due on the estate.

Death certificate

The legal document issued by the Registrar when a person dies is known as the death certificate.  It is a copy of the entry in the death register.

Deed of variation

This allows the individuals who receive funds or property from the Will (beneficiaries) to change how the estate is distributed to reflect family circumstances and possibly save future inheritance tax.


The term that covers all the assets and liabilities of a deceased person, i.e. money, property and possessions, as well as outstanding debts.


This is the person, named in a Will, who is to carry out the wishes contained in that Will.

Executor Dative

This refers to the person appointed to administer an estate where there is no valid Will, or where the executor(s) is unable, or unwilling, to act.

Inheritance tax

The name of the tax that must be paid from the estate of a deceased person.


This term is used when a person dies without having made a valid Will.


Any outstanding debts or obligations, which the deceased leaves behind.

Personal representative

This term can be used as a ‘catch all’ to describe the person responsible for dealing with the estate of a person who has died, i.e. either the executor or the administrator.