Some of the legal terms you may come across.


A document conforming to legal requirements that sets out what you want to happen to your property and the rest of your estate on your death.


Any person who benefits under a will.


A formal amendment to a will.


Everything you own at the time of your death.


The person you appoint to carry out the instructions in your will. Executors are usually family, friends or professional advisors (solicitor/bank manager/accountant).

Inheritance tax

Inheritance tax is the tax generally levied on an estate when somebody dies if it is valued over a certain amount. Contact us for more information about inheritance tax.


This is when someone dies without leaving a legally valid will. In these circumstances the rules of Intestacy apply and these determine who will administer and who will benefit from the deceased’s estate. Further information on the rules of intestacy can found on the HMRC website.


Gift of personal or moveable property (including cash, shares, etc.) left in a will.


The person who receives a legacy.

Pecuniary legacy

Making a gift of a fixed sum of money. You can link your legacy to the Retail Price Index to ensure that the value of the gift you make today is worth the same in the future.  This will prevent your gift from decreasing in value over time.


The application to court after someone dies to prove the will is valid. This results in authority being granted to the executors via a Grant of Probate after any tax due is paid.

Residuary estate

Everything you own at the time of your death, minus any legacies you have made, your debts, funeral expenses and costs of winding up your estate.

Residuary legacy

Leaving a share of your estate. This is stated as all or as a percentage (%) of your remaining estate, once all fees, outstanding costs and other gifts have been taken care of. Even a small percentage of your estate, after providing for family and loved ones, can make a real difference.


This gift allows you to leave your estate, or part of it, on trust for the benefit of a particular person during their lifetime. They benefit from using the assets, or receiving the income from them, during their life. Upon their death, the assets pass to other chosen beneficiaries (called ‘reversionary beneficiaries’) such as King’s College Hospital Charity.

Specific legacy

You can leave specific assets such as property, stocks and shares or other valuables if you wish.

Testator (male) / Testatrix (female)

The person making a will.


You must sign your will in the presence of two witnesses who must then sign the will after you.

A witness (or the married partner of a witness) cannot benefit from a will. If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married partner or civil partner of a beneficiary), the will is still valid. However, the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the will.

Find out more about how to leave a gift in your will.