Jargon busting – Wills

Jargon busting – Wills image
Why is jargon used in wills?

Legal terms are used in formal documents to ensure clarity. A will is a formal document. The terms used form a kind of shorthand to save lengthy explanations or repetition throughout the document. They are also used to avoid ambiguity to those who need to interpret the document.

Terms relating to people

Let’s look, first of all, at the people mentioned in a will.

The testator

The testator is the person who makes the will. If you are making the will, you are the testator.

The executor

The executor is the person (or organisation) you appoint to deal with the administration of your estate. They are responsible for identifying the assets and debts of the estate. The executor must apply for Probate (the formal authority allowing them to deal with the estate). They need to deal with any Inheritance Tax issues. Finally, they must distribute the estate following the directions expressed in the will.

You can have more than one executor and they can either act jointly or as substitutes should one or more of their number die before you do.


These are the people (or organisations) who you have decided will inherit a share of your estate after your death.


Sometimes a trust is set up within a will. The person who manages the trust is called a trustee. There may be one or more trustees.


When this term is used in a will, it refers to the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and other descendants named or referred to in a will or who have an entitlement to inherit.


If you have children who have not reached majority, you can appoint a guardian to look after their affairs.

Terms relating to money and property

Within the will, there will be terms relating to the property and money belonging to the testator.


This is a list of all the assets you own less the debts or other liabilities due. Sometimes this is called the net estate.


These are the items of value the testator owns. They are made up of property, cash and investments.


This is another term relating to property. In this case it means an item of personal property that can be moved around. Examples of this might be personal belongings or effects, furniture or a car.


This is a gift made in a will. The types of gifts contained in bequests tend to be gifts of personal property. Examples of this might be an item of jewellery, a car, a piece of antique furniture or a work of art.


Just like a bequest, a legacy is also a gift but tends to be more wide-ranging. It covers all types of property as well as personal items and cash.


The residue in a will is everything that is left in the estate after debts, bequests and legacies have been dealt with.

Life Interest

This is a term used when the testator decides to allow someone to use an asset during their life but where they do not receive ownership. This is commonly used in relation to a property.


Legal terms are widely used in wills to ensure their meaning is clear and unambiguous. If you find a word or phrase in a will you do not understand or if the meaning is unclear to you, you must ask your solicitor to explain it to you.


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