Common Will Writing Terminology Explained

A Will

The legally valid document written by a testator which specifies the distribution of legacies and gifts from their estate to beneficiaries upon their death.


The person who makes a Last Will and Testament for themselves which is legally valid and used upon their death. A female testator is sometimes known as a testatrix.


Refers to what is left after the execution of a Will, include the payment of all debts, distribution of all legacies to beneficiaries and the payment of the executor’s fee.


The legal process by which a the estate of a deceased is collected in order to be distributed according to the Will to the beneficiaries of the estate.


Any gift or benefit of Will. If the gift it in the form of money it is labelled a Pecuniary Legacy, while items such as possessions or intellectual property are a Specific Legacy.

Intestate (or Intestacy)

The situation where a person has passed away without a Will. The term only applies where the person has an estate upon their death, meaning that they have greater assets than debts.

Inheritance Tax

A tax of 40% of your estate if the total value of your estate, and gifts made in the previous seven years, exceed a set threshold. The current threshold is set at £325,000.

Charitable Giving

Persons who have adult children who are already provided for may be inclined to make substantial charitable gifts, both during life and at death.

Holographic Will

A Will which has been handwritten by the testator without the presence of witnesses. In Scotland holographic wills are valid but are not considered self-evidencing.


An arrangement whereby some or all of the assets of an estate are held by a trustee or multiple trustees for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries.