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Terms You Will Need to Know When Writing Your Will

There is so much that goes into writing your will, that it’s easy to get lost. The first hurdle to handle, however, is the terminology. Understanding what terms mean and the language of writing a will can help you substantially when writing your will. Take a look at the most common terms that can cause you to go cross-eyed while writing your will.

Testator versus Executor

These are two terms that can get confused. The person who is writing your will is your testator, which means that is you. Whereas the person carrying out the wishes of the testator is called the executor. They execute the wishes of the testator, but they do not make the will. Don’t get is wrong, you can get professional help to aid in writing your will, but ultimately, you are the testator.

Trustee versus Executor

On the other hand, if you are looking to give all or some of your assets to a trust, you are going to need a trustee to handle your assets and manage your wishes, rather than an executor.

Beneficiaries versus Per Stirpes

A beneficiary is a simple one: it’s who you are giving your assets to when you are writing your will. You can have as many beneficiaries as you want, but you will have to make it as clear as possible who you are talking about, so that means including full names, addresses, and your relationship the beneficiary. This will help your executor to contact them easily and quickly.

However, a per stirpes is a backup to your beneficiary. When you are writing your will, you can add a note that should a beneficiary pass away before you, their inheritance will pass on to their heir. It’s typically used to share assets amongst grandchildren easily and fairly.

Letter of intent versus a will

When writing your will, a letter of intent is helpful, but not necessary, whereas a will is very much necessary and legally binding. A letter of intent is simply an accompanying document that might clarify the intent behind your decisions, however, it cannot be relied upon in court. Only a will can hold up in court. It is mainly used to give pointers on the upbringing of your children, but there is no limit on what you can say in a letter of intent.

Deed of variation versus a will

On the other hand, a deed of variation is a document that does allow any beneficiaries named in a will to make changes as they see fit to the distribution of your estate. They can add new beneficiaries and alter the distribution between themselves. It’s a good cover if, for example, an unexpected family member is added before you can alter writing your will.

Gift over clause

Another backup to consider when writing your will is the gift over clause. Crazier things have happened than a beneficiary rejecting an inheritance either because they are unwilling or unable to accept it. A gift over clause means that you can nominate a secondary beneficiary that can take the inheritance if this is the case.


Residue, as the name implies, means the leftovers. Once everything is distributed, and the funeral costs, debt, inheritance tax, legacies, bequests, etc. are all handled, a residue beneficiary can have what’s left – if there is anything left.