Making a will

General advice

Why make a will?

A will is an important personal document that will ensure your loved ones are provided for and is an opportunity for you to help the causes you have supported during your lifetime. This guide is to help make the process of making a will as clear as possible. However you should seek professional advice from a solicitor when making a will.

The kinds of donation you can leave in your will

There are three main types of gifts you can leave in your will: residuary, pecuniary or a specific gift.

A residuary gift is the remainder of your estate after your debts, expenses and any cash sums or specific gifts have been paid. You can nominate people and charities to receive a share or the entire residue.

A pecuniary gift is a sum of money, no matter how small or large.

A specific gift is a named item such as shares or an object.

Frequently used terms


A person or organisation who will receive a gift in your will.


A supplement to your will to make a change or addition to your existing will.


The total sum of all your possessions.


A person charged with ensuring that your wishes expressed in your will are carried out. Executors can also be beneficiaries.

Inheritance tax

The tax levied on your estate if it is worth over £325,000. If you leave a gift in your will to a charity, this will reduce the tax paid by your estate.


A person who has died without having left a will.


A gift you leave in your will.

Pecuniary legacy

A gift of a set sum of money.

Residuary legacy

A gift of part or the entire residue of your estate after all debts, taxes, costs and other gifts have been paid, which can be of any size.

Reversionary legacy

A gift in your will that reverts to another beneficiary (such as a charity) when the original beneficiary dies. For example, after the second death in a marriage, you could request a charity receives the gift.

Specific legacy

A gift of a particular item in your will.


A witness to your signature on your will. A witness cannot be a beneficiary.

Image: Discus-thrower (discobolus) Roman copy of a bronze original of the 5th century BC. From Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, Lazio, Italy.