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Beneficiaries in a Will & Beneficiary of a Will

Beneficiary is the term used to describe a person whom you have left a gift to in your Will. You should make a list of all the people to whom you wish to leave money or possessions. These people are known as beneficiaries. You should also consider whether you wish to leave any money to charity.

There are some specific rules for certain beneficiaries which are described below:

Provision for family and dependants

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 or its Northern Ireland equivalent The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) (NI) Order 1979 gives certain rights to your spouse or partner and to anyone who is wholly or partly maintained by you at the time of your death. If you do not adequately provide for such people (your 'dependants'), they may be able to apply to the Court after your death, to effectively have the terms of your Will altered to include them. Writing a letter of wishes can help to defend such claims by explaining why you have left out certain dependants, although in most cases, the reasonableness of the distribution of your estate will be the primary consideration, rather than the reasonableness or otherwise of your actions.

Gifts to minors

Children who are under the age of 18 are classified as minors, and may not, unless your Will specifies otherwise, receive a gift under your Will until they reach the age of 18.

Where a gift in your Will is going to a minor (which may be a child of a deceased beneficiary), you can give your executors and trustees the option to give the gift to the child's parent or guardian. This does leave the possibility that the child will never benefit from the gift (because their parent or guardian will use it up for the child's benefit eg. schooling/welfare), but it is also possible that the parent or guardian can use the gift for the benefit of the minor immediately.

If you are leaving money in your residuary estate to your children, you may specify an age between 18 and 35 when they become entitled to their gift. There are some tax implications if you decide not to give your children the residuary estate right at age 18.

Beneficiaries that die before you

If you leave a gift of money or a specific item to someone who dies before you, the gift may lapse and form part of the remainder of your estate (the 'residue'). This is referred to as 'the doctrine of lapse'. There are exceptions to the doctrine of lapse and the exception that applies most commonly in practice covers gifts to children of the testator.

Gifts to charities in a Will

There are so many charities that raise money for a variety of good causes, and they rely on the generosity of the public to continue the valuable work they carry out. Whilst you will naturally want to make adequate provision in your Will for your family and friends, you may want to consider a gift to a favourite charity as well. Gifts to UK registered charities in your Will are tax exempt, and therefore do not reduce your tax-free allowance. Making a gift is simple. Just get the name, address and registered number of any charities you wish to give to and decide what gift(s) you wish to make. You can make a gift of money, specific items, or include them as a residuary (or alternate residuary) beneficiary. If you wish the gift to be used for any specific purpose, this can be stated in a letter of wishes.

Can an Executor of my Online Will be a Beneficiary?

It is perfectly natural and acceptable to appoint a major beneficiary as an Executor. A partner / spouse / civil partner is someone who you would normally want to be in charge of your property on your death and, so they may very well also the main beneficiary.

If the Executor of your Will has an interest in your estate you will also want to make sure everything is administered efficiently and properly.

If a solicitor, accountant or other professional person is appointed as an Executor they are entitled to charge for the work they do, so they will also receive a benefit in that sense.

Read more Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) >

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this site is not legal advice, but general information on legal issues commonly encountered. GlossLegal is not a law firm and is not a substitute for a solicitor or law firm. GlossLegal cannot provide legal advice. Please note that your access to and use of the GlossLegal website is subject to additional terms and conditions. GlossLegal is the trading name of Enterprisexchange Limited registered in England, United Kingdom under Company Number 3803556.