Jargon in Wills – a guide to unfamiliar terms

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted on Friday, January 27th, 2017

Making your Will is a very important step and one that all adults ought to take, especially if they own property or have family or dependants. Despite many people having complicated financial affairs and intricate family relationships, it’s estimated that more than two-thirds of adults in the UK don’t have a Will.


As lawyers, we’d be the first to admit that ‘legalese’ can sometimes seem strange and unfamiliar. However, the good news is that if you ask us to help in the preparation of your Will, you’ll find that we use plain English and we’ll make sure we explain any word or phrase that may be new to you.

Here are a few terms commonly used in connection with Wills:

This means a person or organisation who will benefit under the terms of your Will.

This is a gift you want to leave to someone or to an organisation. This can be a pecuniary bequest which is a fixed sum of money, while a specific bequest can be a treasured possession such as a piece of jewellery. A residuary bequest can be a gift to be made out of what is left of your estate after other gifts have been made and any debts paid off.

This is a formal legal document amending an existing Will. Using a codicil can be quicker and easier than writing a new Will, but can have pitfalls. It’s vitally important that any codicil is kept with the original Will to avoid any future complications. If the changes you want to make to your Will are substantial, we will advise you whether it would be better for you to write a new Will.

This is a term used to describe your tangible, moveable personal possessions including furniture, paintings and collectibles. You may choose to leave specific items to named beneficiaries in your Will.

The total sum of your personal possessions, property and money, less any debts or liabilities you may have at the time of your death.

This is a person appointed by you in your Will to put in place the wishes expressed in your Will and to administer your estate.

Inheritance Tax
This is a tax payable on the estate of a deceased person and is payable at 40% on larger estates. We can advise you on how to arrange your estate, so that your beneficiaries don’t find themselves facing a hefty tax bill on your death.

This is the legal right to deal with your estate on your death and is issued by the Probate Court. It’s applied for and granted to your executor who then administers your estate according to your wishes, as expressed in your Will.

Testator / Testatrix
The term used to describe the person making the Will. A testator refers to a man, testatrix to a woman.

These are two adults who are not executors or beneficiaries, who are present when you sign your Will. It’s important to note that you must sign your Will with both of them present at the same time.

If you have yet to make a Will, don’t be put off by the jargon, and remember that by taking this simple step you will be making matters easier for your family when you die, and will have the peace of mind of knowing that your wishes will be carried out.

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