Jargon Buster of Legal Terms
Administrator The person entitled at law to administer your Estate should you die intestate, e.g. without a Will.

Bequest Generic term used to cover both legacies and devises
Beneficiary Generic term for any person who benefits under a Will
Chancel Repair Search A search that makes sure a property is not subject to an obligation to contribute to the repair of the local parish church.

Codicil A formal amendment to a Will, usually used in relation to an earlier document.

Commonhold A newly legislated (2004) form of property ownership. It only applies to certain kinds of flat with multiple occupancy, shared ownership and responsibilities.

Completion Day The day the ownership of the property changes hands and it is fully paid for. When the Seller moves out and the Buyer has the right to move into the property.

Contract The contract is a legal agreement by which the Seller agrees to sell a property to a Buyer for the purchase price.

Conveyancing The process of legally transferring property ownership from a seller’s name to a buyer’s.

Covenant A legal rule binding on the property and the property owners.
Defective Title Insurance An insurance policy insuring the owner and future owners against loss which may be suffered by them because of a defect in the legal title.

Deposit A sum of money paid by the Buyer to the Seller through their lawyers when they exchange contracts. The deposit is part-payment of the purchase price and is usually 10% of the purchase price. A lower deposit may be paid when the Buyer obtains a 95% mortgage, when the deposit is 5%.

Devise A gift of real or immovable property such as land, houses or flats in a Will.

Dilapidation A percentage loss of value through age and usage.
Easement A right detached from the actual ownership of a property, for instance a right of access over some land or a right to lay a pipe through it.

Environmental Search This search is extra to a local search. It doesn’t mean that an environmental expert/scientist physically checks the property. It is a search or check by an environmental search company of current and historic land use records within a radius of up to 500 metres of the property. It gives particular emphasis to land use that could result in contamination or could have resulted in such contamination.

Estate Everything you own on your death.
Exchange of Contracts The process by which the contract becomes legally binding. Until exchange of contracts, either side is free to withdraw from the transaction. On exchange the Buyer's lawyer pays the deposit to the Seller's lawyer.

Executor The person or trustees responsible for collecting in the deceased's assets, paying any taxes, and distributing the estate in accordance with a Will.

Flying Freehold Where a property owner owns an area of property on the first floor or above but doesn’t own the ground floor area below. Not legally recognised.

Freehold Freehold ownership is the ownership usually applicable to houses.
Guardian A person appointed by a Will to take over parental rights of any child under eighteen years of age.

Intestate The term given to your legal/financial status when you die without having made a Will. The law then states how your Estate is distributed, usually to close relatives.

Land Registry A government department which maintains and updates title deed records for properties in England and Wales.

Leasehold Ownership usually applicable to flats where the ownership is only for a specified period of time.

Legacy Gift of personal or moveable property (including cash, shares etc.) in a Will. Someone who receives a legacy is a legatee.

Letters of Administration

An application to Court after someone dies intestate (without a will). It establishes that the applicant is entitled to administer the Estate.

Local Search Information held on Council records regarding the property, e.g. if the road is a public road, if the building is a listed building, if any Council grants have been made which may be repayable to the Council, if there are any outstanding Planning and Building Regulation Approval matters relating to this particular property.

Mortgage Offer A written offer of the loan made by a lender to a buyer for property purchase. The mortgage offer will contain detailed information on the terms and conditions of the loan, which is secured on the title of the property.

Pre-Contract Enquiries A set of questions about the contract documents and the property sent by the Buyer's lawyers to the Seller's lawyers to deal with.

Probate An application to Court after someone dies to prove the Will is valid. Results in authority to act being granted to the Executors via a Grant of Probate after any tax due is paid.

Property Information Forms Usually completed by the Seller and their lawyers, these forms contain general information about the property. For instance: guarantees relating to the property, building works carried out at the property and a list of items included in the sale. The seller has to complete these forms to the best of his or her knowledge as they may be relied on by the Buyer in any subsequent legal dispute.

Registration of Title After you, the buyer, have completed the purchase, your details and any new mortgages are sent by your lawyer to the Land Registry. This information is recorded at the Land Registry and a fresh title certificate (title deed) is then sent to your lawyer.

Residuary Estate Everything you owned at the time of your death minus any legacies or devises you have made, as well as your debts, funeral expenses and costs of winding up your Estate.

Restrictive Covenants An obligation imposed on the use of a property as part of a lease or contract of sale which restricts or requires permission during the period of the ownership of the land. For a lessee, this might involve him or her having to ask the leaseholder’s permission to make alterations or extensions to a property. A restrictive covenant may also be imposed on an employee or a director as part of their contract of service which might forbid them, for example, from approaching their former company’s staff or clients for a given period.

Stamp Duty Land Tax Payable by the Buyer in connection with the property transfer. Paid to H M Revenue & Customs.

Survey A more thorough report than a valuation of a property prepared by a qualified Surveyor, normally prepared for the benefit of the Buyer.

Testator A person making a Will.
Title Deeds Legal documents that confirm the ownership of a property and contain details of rights, benefits and obligations affecting it.


An arrangement by which a person, the Trustee, holds legal ownership of money or property for the benefit of another person.

Valuation A valuation is a very basic report regarding the value of a property prepared by a qualified Surveyor, and this is usually prepared for the benefit of the mortgage lender.

Water Company Search The result of this search (provided by the local water company) deals with issues relating to drainage and water supply.

Will A document giving instructions for the disposal of your property after your death. It must be in the correct form in order to be valid.