When making a Will you can leave individual items to certain people by naming them in your Will. Often people who are making a Will have items of value (financial or sentimental) that they would like to leave as a gift for a specific person: in the legal jargon associated with Will-writing these are called ‘specific gifts’.

Any property that you don’t give as a specific gift and which is not used to pay debts, legacies, tax or the expenses of administering your estate is known in legal jargon associated with Will-writing as part of the ‘residue’ of your estate – see our ‘making a will’ article called ‘How to leave the residue of your estate’.

When making a Will you should consider any specific gifts carefully. Are there family heirlooms that would have a special meaning to someone? Do you want to leave a particular item in your Will to a nephew, for example? If you are a mother, do you want to leave your jewellery to your daughter? A specific gift in your Will may not necessarily have monetary importance, but it may have personal significance.

In the case of specific gifts, always indicate in your Will clearly who is to receive each item of property. Give their names in full and identify each item of property clearly.

Try to avoid making gifts in your Will which have been sold or have changed form before your death. Particular difficulties can arise with, for example, gifts of shares or bank accounts.

Here are some examples from DIY Wills:

‘I give my stamp collection to my son, Alexander Guy Ross.’


‘I give my Rolex watch to my son, James Ross.’

Sometimes a particular item of property that you wish to leave in your Will is charged with payment of a debt or other liability. For example, a house is subject to a mortgage in favour of the bank.

The widest term for such charges is ‘encumbrances’. If a case of this sort arises when you are making your Will, you should clearly indicate whether the person who receives the property takes it subject to the encumbrance, or free from the encumbrance, in which case the encumbrance will be paid out of the residue of the estate.

It’s also possible to make a gift of money in a Will. This is usually called a ‘legacy’. Again, you should clearly indicate in your will the amount you wish to give and the person who is to receive it.

Here are some examples from DIY Wills:

‘I give to my son Alexander Guy Ross the sum of £100.’

‘I give the sum of £100 to each of my grandchildren who shall be living as at the date of my death.’

‘I give the sum of £1,000 to be divided equally between all my grandchildren who are living at the date of my death.;

‘I give the sum of £1,000 to Macmillan Cancer Relief Fund.’

Digital assets

Most people have assets in digital form, whether it’s the contents of their laptops, data held in ‘the Cloud’, or accounts held with the likes of as Facebook and Twitter. Such assets can cause headaches on death. The reality is that with many of these sites being only one generation old, many of these issues are unresolved and there is a limit to what can be done by way of a Will. Find out to what extent you can provide for digital assets in your Will, with our last Will & Testament Kit.

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