Leaving a gift in your Will

Legal Terminology

Administrator: Person responsible for dealing with an estate where there is no Will.

Assets: Any property a person owns.

Attestation clause: Statement recording that the correct formalities have been observed by the two witnesses.

Attorney: Person who has the authority to act in another person’s place.

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

Bequest: 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 and taxes 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. Enables a simple update or alteration.

Discretionary trust: Arrangement where Trustees hold property for the benefit of a type of beneficiary rather than the named individuals. It is up to the Trustees to decide how the assets and the income are dealt with and who they go to within the type of beneficiaries.

Distribution: Giving out estate property to beneficiaries.

Estate: The total sum of your personal possessions, property and money minus any liabilities.

Executor(s): The person or people that you appoint to ensure that your final wishes are carried out. These can be professionals, friends, family members or institutions such as banks. Executors can be beneficiaries. Unfortunately Combat Stress is unable to act as Executor for any Wills.

Grant of representation: Authority to deal with a person’s estate, given by the Probate Registry (grant of probate or letters of administration).

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. The tax that is paid when you die, out of your estate, based on how much it is worth.

Interest: A right, share or claim.

Intestacy: Distributing the estate of a person who has left no valid Will.

Intestate: Someone who has died without a Will.

Issue: A person’s direct descendants including children or grandchildren.

Joint tenancy: Way of owning property jointly where on the death of one joint owner their share passes automatically to the other joint owner(s).

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

Legatee: A person who receives a gift from a Will.

Legator: A person who gives a gift in their Will.

Life interest: Where a beneficiary is given the use of an asset (eg a house) during their lifetime. After their death the asset passes to the ultimate beneficiary (such as a charity).

Life tenant: A person entitled to a life interest.

Nil rate band: The part of a person’s estate that is taxed at 0%; the amount is increased in each Finance Act.

Personal representatives: A person appointed to deal with a person’s estate (an administrator or an executor).

Probate: Legal procedure that establishes that a Will and/or codicil are valid. 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.

Remainder, interest in/reversionary interest: Interest in property that only becomes effective once a previous interest has finished (eg after a life interest).

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

Severance: Changing a joint tenancy into a tenancy in common.

Specific devise: Gift of a property or land.

Survivorship, right of: Right of one joint owner to jointly-owned property once the other joint owner has died.

Tenancy in common: A way of owning property jointly where on the death of one owner their share goes to their estate (rather than to the other joint owner).

Testamentary capacity: The ability in law to make a valid Will.

Testator: A person who has made a Will.

Testatrix: A person who has made a Will (female).

Trust: An arrangement where a person(s) hold property for the benefit of someone else.

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

Will: The written declaration of a person’s wishes regarding how their possessions are disposed of after they have died.

Witness: Someone who sees you sign your Will. A witness cannot be a beneficiary.