Jargon Buster

We've put together a short explanation of will making jargon.

Wills: the legal terminology

We've put together a short explanation of will making jargon.


A person or an organisation you leave a gift in a will to.


A gift in a will to a person or organisation.

Residuary legacy

A gift of what’s left of your estate after all other gifts have been made and debts cleared. You may leave either the total of the remainder or a percentage of it.

Pecuniary legacy

A gift of a fixed sum of money.

Specific legacy

A specific named item such as a piece of jewellery or a painting for example.

Contingent bequest

A gift in your will that is dependent upon an event which may or may not happen. For example, a gift to a charity which applies only  if other beneficiaries named in your will die before you die.


A change or addition you make to your will. You may decide to get a new will drafted rather than making a codicil to your will if you want to make a big change or if your personal situation has changed.


The total sum of your possessions, property and money left at your death after any debts have been paid.


Person(s) appointed by you to make sure the wishes in your will are carried out. This might be a relative, friend or solicitor.


The term for a person who dies without a will. Under the Rules of Intestacy, if you die without a will certain members of your family are entitled to apply for your estate. If you do not have any surviving blood relations the state will apply for your estate.

Life interest

The right of a beneficiary to benefit from part or all of your estate during their lifetime. For example, in your will you give a relative/friend the right to live in the property for their lifetime.


The legal process to establish whether your will is valid. When someone dies leaving a will, their executors usually need to apply for a grant of probate. Once obtained executors can deal with the wishes expressed in the will and distribute gifts that have been left.


The total of your possessions, property and money that’s left after death and gifts of fixed sums paid to beneficiaries.


A person who had made a will.