A-Z of Wills

When it comes to Will writing, you might come across some legal jargon that you haven’t heard before. Here we explain some of the most common terms used in Will writing.


Beneficiary: A person, or an organisation, to whom you leave something in your Will.

Bequest: A term for a gift that you leave to a person or organisation in your will. There are several different types of bequest, but the main ones are:

  • Residuary bequest: A gift made of what is left of your estate after all other gifts have been handed out and debts paid off. To do this you may leave either the total of the residue or a percentage.
  • Pecuniary bequest: A gift made of a fixed sum of money. Unfortunately, the effect of inflation means that the value of a pecuniary gift will decrease over time.
  • Specific bequest: A particular named item left as a gift in your Will. For example, a piece of jewellery, furniture or a painting.

Codicil: A codicil is a document used to change a Will that has already been made. Find out more about codicils here.

Estate: Your estate is the total sum of your personal possessions, property and money minus any liabilities.

Executor(s): The person or people that you appoint to ensure your final wishes are carried out. These can be professionals, friends, family members or institutions such as banks and some charities.

Guardian: Someone who is responsible for children until they become 18.

Inheritance Tax: This tax is paid on the portion of your estate that is above the nil-rate threshold.

Intestate: The word used to describe someone who has died without a Will.

Legacy: Another word for a gift or bequest left in your Will.

Probate: When somebody dies leaving a Will, their executors will usually need to apply for a grant of probate. Once this is obtained, the executors can deal with the wishes expressed in the Will and distribute the gifts that have been left.

Residue: This is what is left of your estate after any outstanding debts, taxes, pecuniary and specific bequests have been distributed to beneficiaries.

Testator: The name given to a person who has made a Will.

Trustee(s): One or more people who manage a trust.

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