Breaking through the legal jargon of Will writing

by Jul 1, 2018Blog

Let’s have a go at ‘breaking through’ the legal jargon!

The terminology associated with writing and executing your Will has been used for almost 200 years and is littered with terms which are old fashioned, written in legalese and even contain some Latin phrases.

The terminology might sound very serious and official, but if nobody really understands what they mean, why are we continuing to use them?

This could even be the main reason people aren’t making their Will.

Some people shy away from making their Will as they fear that they won’t understand the over complicated Will terminology used. That the confusing legal jargon used will mean that they are unable to understand their Wills and ultimately unsure that it will deliver the outcome that they want. So, they just don’t do it.

But please don’t be put off by this! Let’s attempt to break through some of the legal jargon by looking at some of the more common terms used.

Will Terminology

We’ve gathered together a list of some of the phrases that you may come across when making your Will or dealing with someone’s estate after they have passed away:

  • Assets – the ‘property’ owned by the person who has made the Will.
  • Beneficiary – a person that benefits from the Will.
  • Bequest – a gift left in a Will.
  • Chargeable gift – a gift in a Will that Inheritance Tax will need to be paid on.
  • Chattels – movable items of personal property, for example, jewellery, art and clothes.
  • Codicil – a document that amends (rather than replaces) a Will. A codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same way as a Will. To avoid disputes we would arrange for your Will to be rewritten.
  • Deed of Variation – a legal document that allows beneficiaries to change the terms of a Will after someone has passed away.
  • Disbursement – a payment made to a third party.
  • ‘En ventre sa mere’ – ‘in the womb’ and would cover any children or grandchildren that had been conceived but not yet born.
  • Estate – the entirety of all the deceased’s assets.
  • Executor – a person or persons appointed in the Will to administer the estate.
  • Gift over clause – if your beneficiary is unable or unwilling to accept their bequest, you can nominate a secondary recipient.
  • Guardian – someone appointed to look after your children in event of your death before the children have reached the age of 18.
  • Intestate/Intestacy – to die without a Will.
  • Legacy – a gift of a specific item or cash sum left in a Will (except property).
  • Pecuniary legacy – a gift of money.
  • Per Stirpes – a method of distributing your estate equally to family members. Often used for grandchildren, including any that may be born after your Will has been made.
  • Predeceased – someone who dies before the person who has made the Will – usually a beneficiary.
  • Residue – what’s left in the estate once everything else has been taken care of, typically, funeral costs, debts, Inheritance Tax, other taxes, legacies, bequests.
  • Residuary beneficiary – a person entitled to the residue of an estate, if any remains.
  • Specific legacy – a gift of a specific object under a Will.
  • Testator – the person who has made the Will.
  • Trust – a legal arrangement you can make to protect your assets and loved ones after you have passed away.
  • Trustee – the people that you appoint to manage the Trust.

This is by no means a complete list but at least it gives you an idea of the main phrases.

If you wish to discuss your Will requirements or have any questions regarding Will terminology then feel free to get in touch with your questions.

Is current Will terminology recognised as a problem?


It is widely recognised that Will law and Will terminology just isn’t working in today’s modern world with current estimates predicting that over 40% of the adult population is currently at risk of dying intestate (without a Will).

In 2017 the Law Commission commenced a consultation process to determine whether the law can be modernised and improved in order to encourage more people to make a Will. Contributions have now closed and we are awaiting the report. Find out more here:

Are you unsure about making your own Will?  Would you like some professional advice?

If you are putting off writing your Will because you are unsure of how to go about it or can’t decide on the fine detail, then there is no need to worry.  To provide you with peace of mind, you can discuss your situation and concerns with Trusted Law.

We will work with you to agree on what is best for you both and your family.  Everything we discuss will always be private and confidential, and you will never feel rushed or pressured.

Trusted Law offers convenient appointments in the comfort of your own home – including evenings and weekends!  So it couldn’t be easier…..

To make your appointment, or for an informal chat, please feel free to contact us on

Tel:                      01953 711950 / 01603 339055

SMS text msg:   07972 212355 or


Please note that this information is provided as a guide only and in accordance with the current laws as at the date of publishing. 

About Trusted Law Ltd

Trusted Law (previously Trusted Wills & Probate Ltd) provides a wide range of services to protect your loved ones and your assets, providing you with much needed peace of mind. 

Our team take the time to get to know you, your family and your wishes to ensure that we are providing you with the right service. No matter how complicated your situation may be, we will work with you to find the right solution.

To read ’Our Story’ (explaining how Trusted Law was established) please click here.

If you would like to discover what our clients say about us, please feel free to read our client Testimonials.