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When it comes to making a will, you might come across some terms you haven't heard before.
Here are the explanations for some of the most common terms used in will making.


This is a person, or an organisation, to whom you leave something in your will.


This is the official term for a gift that you leave to a person or organisation in your will. There are quite a lot of different types of Bequests. Here are a few of the main ones:

  • Residuary bequest
    A gift made of the remainder 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 remainder or a percentage.
  • Pecuniary bequest
    A gift made of a fixed sum of money. Unfortunately, the value of a pecuniary gift will decrease over time, as the cost of living increases.
  • Specific bequest
    A particular named item left as a gift in your will. For example, a piece of jewellery, furniture or a painting.
  • See Types of Legacy section



A codicil is a document used to change a will that has already been made. To find more about codicils and other ways of changing your will, please see the Leaving a Legacy section of our web site and download a codicil form.


Your estate is the total sum of your personal possessions, property and money once all your debts have been paid.


This is the name given to the people that you appoint to ensure your final wishes are carried out. These can be professionals, friends or family members.

Inheritance Tax

Each tax year the government decides the limit above which the value of your estate will be taxed at 40%. The threshold for the 2009-10 Tax Year is £325,000. Gifts to charity are a good way of reducing the amount of your estate to be equal or below the inheritance threshold.


This is the name given to a person who dies without making a will.


A legacy is just another word for a gift left in your will.


When somebody passes away, their executors will usually need to apply for probate. Once granted by the courts, the executors can distribute the gifts that have been left.


This is what's left of your estate after any outstanding debts have been paid off and gifts distributed to beneficiaries.


This is the name given to a person who has made a will.