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A-Z of the Language of Wills

In order to help you make your will, we have created this simple A-Z guide of the language and terminology of wills. We've provided the key terms as well as the meaning and definition of each word. We hope that you find it useful, and will consider leaving a gift to Worldwide Veterinary Service (registered charity #1100485) in your will. 


Beneficiary meaning: Any person or organisation that receives a gift from a Will

Bequest / Legacy

Bequest / Legacy meaning: A gift in a Will


Codicil meaning: An addition to an existing Will. Usually a straightforward document naming an additional beneficiary in addition to those in the existing Will; if more complex changes are being made to the existing Will (e.g. reducing the gift paid to one beneficiary), then it is preferable to amend the Will itself, rather than using a Codicil. Because a Codicil is a legal document, it needs to be treated in the same way as a Will, e.g. it needs to be signed in the presence of two witnesses (who must then sign and date the document themselves, to confirm they have witnessed it), and then filed along with the original Will.


Estate meaning: The total of sum of all possessions and assets, including property and money.

Executor / Executrix

Executor / Executrix meaning: The person, persons, or organisation your Will names as being responsible for ensuring that the wishes in your Will are carried out.

Expression of wishes 

Expression of wishes meaning: A letter, included with the Will, that gives executors an indication of who they should pay gifts to. Not as legally binding as a clause inserted in the Will itself, and it may leave the value of the gift to the executor’s discretion.

Inheritance tax (IHT)

Inheritance Tax meaning: The tax levied on your estate (including the market value of your estate at the time of your death)


Intestate meaning: When a person dies without having made a valid Will.

Legator / Testator

Legator / Testator meaning: The person whose Will it is

Mirror Will

Mirror Will meaning: Where a couple have the same wishes in their respective Wills, e.g. a husband leaves everything to his wife on his death, unless she has predeceased him, in which case it is left to charity – and the wife does the same in her Will, leaving everything to her husband, or to a charity is he has predeceased her.


Probate meaning: The process which grants the Executor the legal authority to administer the estate of the deceased, make payments to beneficiaries, etc. The Executor needs to submit forms to the Probate Registry (a government agency) in order for this to be granted.

Conditional Bequest

Conditional bequest meaning: The gift is only paid under specific conditions, e.g. the charity will only benefit if all other named beneficiaries are deceased.

Pecuniary bequest

Pecuniary bequest meaning: The gift of a specific sum of money

Residuary bequest

Residuary bequest meaning: The gift of a percentage of what is left over – the “residuary” – after all other gifts have been paid, and all costs deducted.

Specific bequest

Specific bequest meaning: The gift a of specific, named item, e.g. an item of jewellery


Executors meaning: As defined above, the Executor is the individual (family member, friend, neighbour, etc) or organisation (solicitor, bank, etc) who has the responsibility for ensuring that the wishes detailed in the deceased’s will are carried out, that all assets of their estate are disposed of in accordance with their instructions, all payments for tax liabilities and professional fees are taken care of, and all gifts to beneficiaries are made.

In order to carry out these wishes, the executor will need to apply for a grant of Probate, in order to give them the legal authority to make payments, close bank accounts, etc. This is done by submitting a form to the Probate Registry, a Government department.

One or more people or organisations can be appointed as Executor(s), in which case they will become a Joint Executor, sharing responsibility, rather than a Sole Executor.

Solicitors are the most common type of organisation to be appointed as an Executor. The advantage for the legator is that their family or friends do not have to handle the often lengthy, complex and – potentially – stressful issues involved with disposing of an estate. The disadvantage, of course, is that they charge for their services – meaning that the amount of the estate that will pass to beneficiaries will be reduced.