There are several types of gifts that can be made via your will and it is important that you express those gifts carefully to avoid problems for your estate.
Specific gifts are gifts of some particular identifiable possession or item that is a distinguishable part of your estate. Examples of specific gifts include gifts of chattels (personal effects), jewellery, property or specific investments.
For a specific gift to take effect, the subject matter of the gift must form part of your estate at the time of your death. If the subject matter of the gift is not part of the estate, for example if a gift of ‘my interest in 1 Park Avenue’ is made and you sell 1 Park Avenue after making the will, the gift will fail.
General gifts are gifts not of a precise asset or item that you own, it is a gift of something to be provided out of your general estate. Whether or not that gift is actually part of your estate at death is irrelevant.
A gift of money will nearly always be a general gift. Leaving a gift of £1000 may become a problem if you do not have such cash in your estate at the time of your death. Their executors would have to raise the money to make such a gift.
Distinction between Specific and General Gifts
Gifts of stocks and shares can be used to show the distinction between what is a specific and a general gift.
‘I give my shares in XYZ Ltd’ would be a specific gift. The gift makes clear reference to shares you own, showing that the gift should be of a part of the estate.
‘I give 100 shares in XYZ Ltd’ would be a general gift. The gift does not make mention of any ownership of shares and the executors would need to raise this gift out of the general estate.
Demonstrative gifts are a hybrid of the specific and general gifts. It is essentially a general gift that has to be satisfied from a particular source, for example £2000 from my bank account held with RBS.
If the specified fund is not large enough to make the gift in full, any excess would be made out of the general estate and treated as a general gift. Using the above example, if there is only £1500 in the specified RBS account at the date of your death, the remaining £500 will be treated as a general gift and made out of your general estate.
Every will includes a gift of the residue, also known as a residual gift or gift of the residuary estate. This is a gift of everything in the estate left over after all other gifts have been made and the estate has paid any debts, taxes and other expenses.
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