Legal terms explained
Here are some explanations of legal words to help you when making or changing your Will:
- Beneficiary (or legatee): A person or organisation standing to benefit from your Will.
- Codicil: A legal document which adds to or amends your existing Will and which must be witnessed in the same way.
- Estate: The total sum of your property, possessions and savings, less any debts.
- Executor (executrix): A person you appoint in your Will to administer your estate.
- Intestate: If you die without leaving a Will, you are said to die intestate. The law then decides how your estate should be distributed.
- Legacy or bequest: A gift left in a Will.
- Life interest: A gift to a named individual for use in his or her lifetime.
- Pecuniary legacy/bequest: The gift of a fixed amount of money in a Will.
- Probate: The document issued by the court to your executors confirming the Will is valid and giving them authority to act.
- Residuary legacy/bequest: A gift which consists of all, or a percentage share of, the residue of your estate.
- Residue: The sum of money that is left from your estate when all gifts, debts and taxes have been deducted.
- Reversionary legacy/bequest: A gift to a person or organisation that is passed on only after the person it was originally left to has died.
- Specific legacy/bequest: The gift of a particular item in your Will.
- Testator (testatrix): A person who has made a Will.
- Trustee: A person appointed to look after any part of your estate which you leave under trust. Usually the same person(s) as your executor(s).
- Witness: A person who will sign your Will in your presence. Your witnesses cannot be beneficiaries of your Will, or married to beneficiaries.