Will Writing Glossary

There are a number of words and phrases that you will often come across in the area of wills and probate. This article takes you through some of the most important ones.

Beneficiary: Someone who receives anything from your will

Codicil: A change to an existing will is made through adding a codicil.

Crown or Treasury: The government. If you leave no surviving family and no instructions to the contrary, they get everything.

Estate: Your possessions at the time of your death (less any outstanding debts).

Executors: Less sinister than they sound! Executors are the people you choose to carry out your instructions.

Guardian: A person with legal control or responsibility for a minor (i.e. a child under 18). You can designate Guardians in your will.

Inheritance Tax: 40% tax payable on all estates over a certain value. This can catch homeowners out, especially in and around London.

Intestate: If you die without making a will, you are said to die ‘intestate’

Minor: Anyone under the age of 18 (in English law)

Legacy: A gift in a will. This can be a specified item (a Specific Legacy) or a gift of money (a Pecuniary Legacy)

Probate: Grant of probate establishes that your executor(s) are legally authorised to manage and distribute your estate.

Residuary Beneficiary: Someone who receives the residue of an estate, or part of it

Residue or Residuary Estate: What’s left of your estate after all specific gifts and expenses have been paid out

Sound Mind: To be ‘of sound mind’ means that the mind is reasonable and comes to a judgment upon ordinary subjects, like other rational men.

Testator: Someone who makes a Will

Testatrix: A female testator

Trust: A trust is an arrangement under which a trustee or trustees hold and manage property for the benefit of another person or persons (the trust beneficiary or beneficiaries)

Trustee: A person responsible for administering a trust.

Will: A legal document which establishes the wishes of someone upon their death. Used to say who gets what from someone’s estate. Writing a will ensures that your possessions are distributed according to your wishes in the event of your death.

Witness: A witness confirms that they saw the testator (or testatrix) sign the document and that he/she was of sound mind at the time of signing. To be legally valid, a will must have two witnesses.