This glossary of terms will help you understand the technical language used for wills.

Administrators Those appointed to administer an estate where there is no Will or executor.

Beneficiary An individual or organisation who receives a gift in a Will.

Bequest A gift in a Will.

Chattels Personal property including furniture, furnishings, moveable goods and car.

Clauses Sections in your Will that deal with different aspects of your estate and add up to ensure your wishes are honoured.

Codicil A separate legally binding document making a change or addition to your existing Will. 

Conditional bequest A gift that will only take effect if a certain event occurs.

Estate The total value of all an individual’s assets at the time of their death, including possessions, property and money.

Executor One or more people nominated by the Will maker to take charge of their affairs following their death. This can be a solicitor, trust, branch of a bank or personal contact. 

Grant of probate A court document confirming the authority of an executor to administer the estate.

Inheritance tax The government sets the Inheritance Tax threshold for the year and any estate with a value over this amount is subject to tax. Reducing the estate value with a donation to charity can reduce Inheritance Tax.

Intestate When someone dies without having made a Will or where their Will fails to dispose of all of their estate. The administration of the estate is then governed by the provisions of the Administration of Estates Act 1925. 

Legacy A gift left to a person or organisation in a Will. 

Legator(male)/Legatrix(female) A person who has died and left a gift in their Will

Life interest A two stage legacy, where the first beneficiary is given the use of an asset (e.g. a house) during their lifetime. After their death, the asset passes to the second beneficiary.

Mirror Wills Mirror Wills are identical except that each leaves the same gifts to the other, and each names the other as executor. They are made in the same terms each to benefit the other, with or without other gifts and provisions. Either party can change their mind at any time and make a different Will. 

Pecuniary Legacy The gift of a specified sum of money. 

Power of attorney A legal document which authorises one or more people to handle another person's financial affairs (including property, shares, money, etc.), either generally or in relation to specific items.

Probate The legal procedure by which your executor is given the authority to administer your estate. The remainder of an estate after the deduction of tax, debts, specific gifts, pecuniary legacies and the expenses of administration are resolved and your property, cash, etc., is distributed to those outlined in your Will. 

Probate Registry Court office dealing with the right to administer the estate.

Residue The sum left from an estate when all debts, charges and pecuniary gifts are deducted.

Residuary Legacy The whole residue, or a percentage share of the residue, can be left as a gift. This is a particularly popular way to leave a gift to a charity. 

Specific Legacy A gift of a particular item, e.g. a piece of jewellery or furniture. 

Testator(male)/Testatrix (female) The person making the Will. 

Trustee An individual appointed to look after any part of your estate for the benefit of others.

Will A legally binding document giving instructions about what to do with a person’s estate when they die. 

Witness Someone who signs your Will in your presence, who must not be a beneficiary.