Breaking through the legal jargon of Will Writing

by Aug 14, 2020Blog

The terminology associated with writing 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?

Some people fear that they won’t understand the over complicated legal jargon used when making their Will and simply avoid doing it. But please don’t be put off by this! 

Here’s an explanation of some of the 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:

  • Testator – the term used for the person making a Will.
  • Assets – the ‘property’ owned by person who has made the Will.
  • Estate – the entirety of all the deceased’s assets.
  • Intestate/Intestacy – if you pass away without a Will.
  • Executor – the people appointed in your Will to deal with everything on your death in accordance with your Will.
  • Beneficiary – a person that benefits from the Will.
  • Guardian – the people you appoint to look after your children if you pass away before your children have reached the age of 18.
  • Trustee – the people that you appoint to manage the Trust.
  • Chattels – items of personal property, for example, jewellery, art and clothes.
  • Bequest – a gift left in a Will.
  • Legacy – a gift of a specific item or cash sum you leave in your Will (except property).
  • Pecuniary legacy – a gift of money.
  • Specific legacy – a gift of a specific item under a Will eg. jewellery
  • Chargeable gift – a gift in a Will that Inheritance Tax will need to be paid on.
  • Residue – everything you own after 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
  • ‘En ventre sa mere’ – meaning ‘in the womb’ and would cover any children or grandchildren that had been conceived but not yet born.
  • 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 passes before the person who has made the Will 
  • Deed of Variation – a legal document that allows beneficiaries to change the terms of a Will after someone has passed away.
  • Trust – a legal arrangement you can make to protect your assets and loved ones after you have passed away.

This is by no means a complete list but hopefully it helps to explain some of the confusing terms you might hear.

Sadly, it is common for our clients to present us with their existing Will stating that they do not understand them.  With this in mind, we will always explain all of our advice in clear language (much like the above) and also provide a commentary alongside our documents to explain their terms.

Is the current Will terminology recognised as a problem?


It is widely recognised that the law governing Wills and Will terminology isn’t working in today’s modern world especially with our blended families, increased property values and complicated estate ownerships eg. business interests, rental properties etc.

The Law Commission is currently undertaking a consultation process to determine whether the law can be modernised and improved in order to encourage more people to make a Will. You can contribute here

It is currently estimated that over 40% of the adult population in the UK is currently at risk of dying Intestate (see above for the meaning).  Please don’t be one of them if the main reason for not making your Will has been due to the confusing terminology…..we can easily help you with this.

If you have any questions or we can help you with anything in the above article, please feel free to get in touch on:

T: 01603 339055


Txt: 07972 212355

Still unsure about making your Will?

If you are putting off writing your Will because you believe that you won’t understand the ‘legalese’  or you are unsure of how to go about it, then there is no need to worry.  

To provide you with some much needed peace of mind, you can discuss your situation and concerns with Natalie from Trusted Wills & Probate Ltd who will guide you through this ‘mine field’ of Will Writing and Succession Planning with ease and confidence. We pride ourselves in making the law understandable, cutting through the legal jargon, giving you clear advice and telling you how it is.

It is a process that can be dealt with relatively quickly, and it can save you hours of stress trying to figure out what is needed.

To make your appointment, or for an informal chat, please feel free to contact me via email: or phone: 01953 711 950 / 07972 212 355.

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 me and Trusted Wills & Probate Ltd

My name is Natalie Chapman – company director of Trusted Wills & Probate Ltd, a wife to Darren and a Mum to our twins.  To read more about how Trusted Wills & Probate Ltd was establish please click here [link to About Us page]. 

I have personally visited each of my clients and enjoyed my time getting to know each of them, listening to their tales and stories and making sure I fully understand their needs.  If you would like to discover what my clients say about us, please feel free to read my client Testimonials [link to Testimonials page].