Glossary of terms


A person or organisation who benefits from a gift in your will.


A gift included in your will (also known as a ‘legacy’).


A further document making a simple change to your existing will. It must also be drawn up legally and witnessed.


The total sum of all your possessions.


A person (or persons) you nominate to be responsible for fulfilling the terms of your will. Executors can also be beneficiaries.


Funds or property donated to an institution, individual, or group as a source of income.

Inheritance Tax (IHT)

The tax that is liable on your estate if the total value is more than the Inheritance Tax threshold. This is currently 40% of everything above £325,000 (2010-2011 tax year). Gifts to charity are exempt from IHT and could help reduce your liability to tax.


The term for someone who died without making a will.


A gift to a person or charity (see also ‘bequest’).

Lifetime gift
A bequest which the testator gives during his lifetime. If the Testator dies within seven years of making his gift, Inheritance Tax might become payable on some or all of the gift.

Pecuniary Legacy

A gift of a specific sum of money.


To promise a gift (not legally binding).


The legal process of ‘proving’ your will. This has to be completed before bequests may be given out.


The remainder of your estate after all the debts have been paid and all your pecuniary and specific bequests made.

Residuary Legacy

A gift from the residue. As the total amount available cannot be known in advance, this is usually referred to as a percentage share of the residue. As it is a percentage, it ensures that your loved ones are taken care of and you won’t have to keep changing your will as circumstances change. This is a particularly popular way to leave a gift to a charity.

Reversionary Legacy

Used where you wish the gift to revert to the main estate if the beneficiary predeceases you.


You can find your nearest probate solicitor at the Law Society who can provide contact details of local specialists who can advise on estate matters.

Specific Legacy

The gift of a specific item such as property, shares, works of art or other valuable items.

A person who has written and executed a will that is in effect at the time of their death.


A legal document which sets out precisely how you wish your affairs and property to be handled after your death.

The wording to be used in your will is very important. We advise you to seek legal advice so that your will is properly worded and valid and to ensure that your wishes and can be carried out.


A witness to your signature on your will. A witness cannot be a beneficiary.