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Wills - a jargon-busting guide

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If I had a pound for every time a customer asked me to explain what a ‘Beneficiary’ or a ‘Trustee’ was or what ‘Executor’ meant…well….let’s just say I wouldn’t need to play the lottery on a weekly basis! 

Legal terminology can be difficult to understand for the non-lawyers among us, particularly in the area of Wills. I am often asked by customers, why do Wills contain such “archaic-sounding” language? Quite simply this “archaic-sounding” language has been tried and tested over the years and is therefore approved by the courts. The main goal of the courts in this area of law is to ensure that Wills are not misconstrued. 

Below, I set out a non-exhaustive list of some of the words you will undoubtedly read or hear when sitting down to make your Will with your trusted legal advisor:



this is a person or organisation who will benefit from your will 

Residuary Estate    =   this is all the property that remains in your Estate after all specific gifts have been paid out and any funeral, debts, taxes or legal fees.
Executor(s)   =   this is the person or people (including professionals) who are appointed in your Will to give effect or execute the wishes you have set out in it.
Trustee(s)   =   can be one in the same person(s) as the Executor(s) and is responsible for holding your property on behalf of others while your estate is being administered. Often Trustees will hold property on trust for beneficiaries who are minors.
InHeritance Tax   =   a 40% tax payable on any assets, owned by you, which exceed the current inheritance tax free threshold of £325,000 (although this can be doubled up in the case of married couples and civil partners to £650,000 and can be reduced by lifetime gifts)  The rate is 36% for estates were 10% of the ‘Estate’ is given to charity.
Estate   =   this is everything that you own at date of death.
Revocation clause   =   this is usually the introductory clause to a Will and it stipulates that by the making of the Will any previous Wills/Codicils in existence are revoked. If you have foreign assets and a foreign Will, it is important you let your solicitor know so as not to revoke that Will as well.
Testator/Testatrix   =   the person (male/female) making the Will
COdicil   =   an amendment/addition to an existing Will.
WitNesses   =   two people, preferably of adult age, who are not connected to the Will (i.e. are not Executors/Beneficiaries or even family members) who are present at the time you sign your Will.
Specific Legacy   =   the gift of specific item such as a car or piece of jewellery to a beneficiary


For legal advice regarding the setting up of your Will, please feel free to contact me on 01869 252161 or