There are various types of legacies for testators to consider when deciding on the contents of their wills. Each kind has its own peculiarities and needs carefully thinking through.
The four most commonly-found categories are pecuniary legacies, residual legacies, specific legacies, and reversionary ones. We expand on these in that order in the paragraphs following. They definitely leave food for thought.
Pecuniary Legacies – A Matter of Money
Legacies usually comprise assets left intact, as for example ‘I leave my worldly goods to …’ or ‘I would like my son to receive …’ when I die. Pecuniary legacies on the other hands are gifts of money that may, or may not need the sale of assets to realise.
Estates can take years to wind up while beneficiaries wait in a legal limbo. In the case of pecuniary legacies however, they earn interest at the Bank of England base rate from a year after the testator’s death.
Financial legacies shake cash loose from unwanted assets that heirs may not appreciate. They may however have conditions attached regarding their use, or be left open-ended.
Residual Legacies after Settling Obligations
A residual may remain after creditors are paid, legal fees settled, and any pecuniary legacies honoured. Again, it’s possible to leave this to a single person, or divide it between several in equal or unequal shares. In the latter case, the executor must decide how to do this.
They will have to attach a value to every asset first, and determine the worth of investments and cash. They may have to call a meeting of the heirs and decide how best to share the residual assets between them.
If there is no consensus, the executor will have to auction off the assets. Having read this you may decide to leave specific legacies instead.
Controlling Outcomes with Specific Legacies
Executors welcome specific legacies because they help them come closer to the testator’s intentions. They include pecuniary legacies but also gifts of specific items.
A testator might for example leave their home to their spouse, including the furnishings and appliances. They could then bequeath their stamp collection to a favourite nephew and their timeshare to a business partner, without affecting the primary legacy.
Specific legacies of a residual estate simplify the task of an executor. They also enable a testator to be more specific about their intentions. However, there is nothing to prevent heirs selling their inheritances.
Covering Bases with Reversionary Legacies
Some testators feel obligated to a charitable organization that played a major role in their past. The possibilities are infinite however to enliven this article we mention a few examples.
The testator may have received support from a charity during a difficult period in their lives. However, they may also have a relative in special care they are paying for.
A reversionary legacy may be their best solution. This places their estate in a trust to support the dependent. When they no longer need the support for whatever reason, the remaining capital reverts to the charity. This could be the perfect solution to those dilemmas with winners on all sides.