If you are unfamiliar with the legal terms used in will writing, you may find the following useful:

  • Will

A legally binding document which details your wishes and sets out how your estate will be distributed on your death.

  • Codicil

A legally binding document which can be appended to your main will and facilitates minor changes and amendments. Significant changes may require a re-write of the main will.

  • Executor

A person you choose to carry out the terms of your will.It is sensible to have two executors in place, in case one of them dies before you do. Anyone over the age of 18 can be an executor, and you can choose a friend or family member or a professional executor, e.g. a solicitor or accountant.

  • Beneficiary

A person or charity that will benefit from your will.

  • Bequest

A gift, otherwise known as a legacy.

  • Estate

All your possessions, including property and money.

  • Intestacy

Dying without leaving a will (or leaving a will that has been declared invalid for whatever reason.)

  • Life Interest Legacy

Also known as a reversionary legacy or an interest in remainder. This is a legacy leaving an interest in property for the duration of a beneficiary's lifetime, which passes to another beneficiary on the former's death.

  • Conditional Legacy

A gift that relies on a certain condition being met, e.g. a family member predeceasing you.

  • Inheritance tax

Tax paid on the portion of your estate that is above the nil-rate threshold.

  • Residue

What is left of your estate after outstanding debts and taxes are paid and any pecuniary of specific bequests have been distributed.