There are broadly five types of legacy you can leave.
- “I leave £2,000 to my son” – this is called a ‘pecuniary bequest’. It means you leave a fixed sum of money.
- “I leave my jewellery to my daughter” – this is called a ‘specific bequest’. It means you leave a specific item which you own. The way to identify it will be to see what meets that description at the date of death. If there’s no jewellery at that time, then the gift will fail.
- “I leave half my estate to my brother” – this is a ‘residuary bequest’. It means you leave a percentage of whatever your estate is worth after any debts, costs, liabilities, legacies and tax have been paid.
- “I leave my share of my house to my wife if she survives me, but if she does not survive me then it will pass to my daughter” – this is a ‘reversionary bequest’ for your daughter. You can specify what happens if the person you leave it to dies.
- “I leave my share of my house to my wife for the rest of her life, and then it will pass to my daughter” – this creates a ‘trust’ over your share of the house. A trust allows you to say who you would like to benefit from your property immediately after your death (for example, your wife), and then who you would like to benefit from your property (for example, your daughter) once the first person you’ve chosen to benefit immediately after your death has died. This type of gift can easily go wrong, so you’ll need to get legal advice if you want to include a ‘trust’ in your will.
If your affairs are comparatively simple (for example, you want to leave everything to your husband, wife or civil partner), it’s likely you’ll just use simple residuary bequests.
If things are more complicated, you’ll probably use a combination. For example:
Mike is married with one son. His wife has a son too, from a previous marriage. He leaves:
- his share of his home to his wife for the rest of her life
- £1,000 to each of his grandchildren
- his watch to his wife’s son
- anything else in his estate to a charity.
June is divorced with three children and four grandchildren. Her son has mental health problems. She leaves:
- £500 to each grandchild
- half the remaining estate in a trust for her son for the rest of his life, to be split between her daughters on his death, and
- a quarter of the estate each to her daughters, but if any daughter dies before her, that daughter’s children will receive the dead daughter’s quarter share of the estate between them.