When it comes to leaving gifts in a will, you may have a few questions. There are a few different categories and options, a few are pecuniary, specific, non-specific and residuary. Here we’ll take a look at what those terms mean and some of your options when it comes to leaving gifts. You may have just a few items or a lifetime of gifts to leave to loved ones, but whatever the case, it will be personal to you.


What gifts can I put in my will?
Pecuniary gifts

This is the type of gift that most people associate with a will. It is a gift of money to a specific group or individual. This can be given directly to an individual or placed in a trust for them to receive at a later date if they are younger than 18 years old.

Specific gifts

Specific gifts relate more closely to specific assets. This could be anything from a car, a coin collection, artwork or even jewellery. Even if something has little cash value, but has sentimental value, it’s a good idea to make it clear in the will who should receive it. If you no longer have ownership of the item at the time of your death, then this part of the will becomes void and the intended recipient would not receive the item or even an alternative.

Non-specific gifts

You don’t have to be specific with your gift-giving. It could be that you have two children and you want to leave everything to them. This isn’t dictating exactly who should receive what piece but instead they would decide between themselves. This could be easier than going through everything that you own.

Residuary gifts

When you’re alive, the value of your estate will be constantly changing. Car and house valuations change, your cash balance will fluctuate and possessions come and go. Due to this, it can be near impossible to make an absolute plan for everything you own. A residuary gift is essentially everything that’s left over after payment of debts, expenses and other gifts have been sorted. These gifts can include any other possessions, money or property and you can choose to give the whole residuary estate to one or several people or beneficiaries.

Also, if you leave a gift to someone who has since passed away, that gift will then fall back into the residual estate. If it’s a high-value gift then it may even be worth putting a backup beneficiary in your will.

Other ways to give in your will

How you want to divide up your estate is up to you. Take an art collection, for example. Some may wish to specifically state what person should receive what piece (specific gift), others may leave it up to a collection of people to decide (non-specific gift,) whereas others may be happy for it to just become part of the residual estate (residuary gift).

Leaving gifts to children

One thing to note, which was quickly mentioned above, is that if you are giving to children under the age of eighteen, there are a few options. Since they do not have the “legal capacity” to receive a gift from a legacy, you could give it to another parent or a guardian in the meantime, or you could put the gift in a trust for them to receive at a certain age.

Leaving money or items to charity

Another option is to leave money or items to a charity. This is so helpful to the organisations you choose and you would also receive some tax benefits for leaving charitable donations in your will. Have a read this article to learn more about giving to charities in your will.

A little note You may also wish to give outside of your will. Saying to a child “I want you to have this after I’m gone” can be a simpler way of dealing with your estate, however, the problem is that it’s not legally valid.

Be specific when leaving gifts in your will

Whatever your wishes, you need them to be clearly detailed in your will with no ambiguity. Your will could say “I leave my car to Dave,” but what if you have two cars and more than one person you were close to calling Dave. Even language such as “I leave £10,000 to my son and his wife,” could be misinterpreted. Is it £10,000 in total or are they both to receive that amount?

In conclusion, as we’ve seen here, you can put pretty much anything you want in your will). You can let your chosen executors decide, or have a more thorough list of your exact wishes. However you decide to do it, make sure your wishes are clear so the right gift gets to the right person.

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