Gifts in Wills Jargon Buster

We understand it can be daunting talking to a solicitor or will-writer, especially as the legal jargon can be overwhelming. We hope they would help you understand but, just in case you'd like to be prepared, we've pulled together a list of key definitions to help you! 

Here are some of the terms you may come across when discussing your will, and what they mean.

  • Absolute – unconditionally and completely
  • Administrator – a person that administers your estate after your death if you have failed to make a valid will, or if you made a will but didn't appoint an executor.
  • Beneficiary – a person or organisation who benefits from your will.
  • Bequeath – to make a legacy in your Will to a person or organisation.
  • Codicil – a legally binding document made by you that alters or adds to your existing will.
  • The Crown - if you have no next of kin and die without making a will, your estate will go to The Crown (The Treasury).
  • Estate – all of your possessions and assets at the time of your death.
  • Executor or Executrix – an individual you appoint to carry out your wishes as stated in your will, and to administer your estate after your death.
  • Intestate – those who die without leaving a valid will.
  • Legacy / Bequeath – a gift you leave in your will to a person or organisation.
  • Next of Kin – your closest living relative.
  • Probate – after your death, probate is the legal process whereby your will is validated and the value of your estate assessed, in order that your estate can be distributed in accordance with your wishes.

Legacies come in all shapes and sizes. Knowing the type of gift you want to leave can help you when it comes to writing your will.

  • Specific bequest – a specific item such as a house, car or piece of jewellery.
  • Pecuniary legacy – a fixed sum of money, e.g. £2,000.
  • Residuary legacy – all, or a proportion of, what is left after any debts, taxes and specific bequests have been deducted. Leaving just 1% of your estate as a residuary gift can make a real difference.
  • Reversionary legacy – a legacy made to a particular person for the period of their lifetime, after which it passes to another specified person or organisation.
  • Conditional legacy – a legacy made to a person or organisation providing a particular condition is met, for example when the beneficiary turns a certain age.
  • Gift in trust – a legacy where your executors appoint a trustee to be responsible for looking after the bequest on behalf of the named beneficiary, for example a trust for a person until they reach a certain age.