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When writing or executing a will, you may come across some unfamiliar legal or financial terms. We’ve laid out the definition of some of these terms to help you with the process.


A person responsible for dealing with an estate.


Any property, money and belongings you own.


A loved one, charity or organisation who is named in your will as the recipient of a gift.


A gift made in a will (not including property).


A document adding to, or altering, an existing will. A codicil is used where only a minor change is needed. This will appear as an appendix and will need to de signed, dated and kept with the original will.

Conditional legacy:

A gift conditional upon a certain event taking place. E.g. “If my husband / wife predeceases me”


A person or organisation named in your will to be responsible for carrying out the terms of your will following your death. You can have up to four executors, and they can be a solicitor, trust company, bank, charity or a friend or family member and can also be a beneficiary.


Person(s) appointed under the terms of a will to have physical custody of any minor child(ren).

Inheritance Tax (IHT):

A tax set by the government which may be payable on death depending on the value of the estate and intended beneficiaries. Learn more about how a gift in your will to charity can lower the amount of IHT you pay. (LINK to desktop 1 see if this goes faq)


To have died without having made a valid will.

Lay executor:

A non-professionally qualified executor for example an individual related to the deceased (see executor above).


A gift in your will (including property).


Someone who has left a legacy in their will.


Financial obligations (such as debts or tax bills) which may need to be settled by your estate after your death.

Life interest:

Right to enjoy property, or income from investments, until death.

Life tenant:

A person entitled to a life interest.

Mirror wills:

Nearly identical wills made by married couples that reflect one-another.

Pecuniary legacy:

A bequest of a specific amount. E.g. “£1000”


The legal process whereby a will is “proved” in a court and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased. Once probate is granted (known as Confirmation in Scotland) the executor can distribute the proceeds from the deceased’s estate to the beneficiaries.


Everything that is left of your estate after all the liabilities, tax, costs and legacies have been paid.

Residuary legacy:

A share, or sometimes all, of an estate after all the other payments have been made. One of the advantages of a residuary legacy is that it doesn't lose value over time, and if you leave a proportion to us, you can still ensure other causes and loved ones are provided for first.

Specific legacy:

A gift of a specific item, such as property, antiques, jewellery and shares.


The person who has made the will.


If your will sets up a trust, the trustees are the people or organisations named in your will, to manage this trust according to its terms. They will usually make decisions for the benefit of the trust's beneficiaries, once the administration of the rest of your estate has been completed. Their role is like the Executors of your estate, and often, at least initially, they will be your Executors.


A legal document where a person states what they want to happen with their estate following their death.


You need the presence of two people when you sign your will, who act as witnesses.

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