How Should My Estate Be Distributed In My Will?

When having your Will created, it is important to think about how you want your estate to be distributed or inherited by your beneficiaries after you have passed away.

This includes who receives your finances, property or specific personal items and when they receive them (e.g. when the person turns 18 years old).

Estate distribution in a Will


You might want to leave some legacies. These could be cash sums and/or specific items that are to be left to certain people, such as close family members or friends.

If you think your family might fall out after your death, making a Will with specific provisions as to who is to get what in terms of personal possessions can avoid disputes.

You might want to leave a specific gift of your house in your Will. Particular care needs to taken with such gifts, including:

  • If there is a mortgage, how is that to be dealt with?
  • What is to happen if you sell that house and buy another?
  • What is to happen if you sell that house but don’t buy another? For example, you have moved into care and your house has been sold by your attorney.

In your Will you can include a gift of a particular property but if you don’t own it upon your death then ownership of any substitute property can be gifted instead. However, if you don’t own any substitute property then a cash sum equal to the amount your last property was sold for could be gifted instead. This will need to be specifically provided for in your Will.


You will need to decide who is to inherit the residue of your estate. The residue is the total of the assets of your estate after payment of the liabilities of your estate and settlement of all legacies.

Obviously none of us know what the value of our estate will be when we pass away. You might win the lottery or receive an inheritance shortly before your death, meaning your estate is worth a lot more than you initially anticipated. Conversely, you might have to live in residential care for many years before your death with care fees reducing the value of your estate.

If you leave your estate to more than one beneficiary, you will need to decide what shares each beneficiary is to inherit. You may also want to set certain conditions – commonly that a beneficiary must attain a particular age before becoming entitled to receive their inheritance.

Calamity clause

You may wish to provide in your Will how your estate is to be inherited in the event of:

  1. Each of your beneficiaries dying before you; and
  2. All of your beneficiaries dying before you.

So, it might be helpful to quickly look at a couple of very simple examples of Wills.

Estate distribution in a Will – examples


Fred appoints his three nephews to act as executors to administer his estate. Cash legacies are left to his named godchildren and charities.

The residue of the estate is left to the three nephews equally. If any of those nephews die before Fred, the surviving nephews will inherit equally. If they all die before Fred then the specified charities in the Will are to inherit instead.

Simon and Jenny

Simon and Jenny are a married couple. Their Wills state that when the first of them dies, the survivor is to act as the executor to administer the deceased’s estate which is to be inherited by the survivor.

On the death of the second of them to die, their son, Jack, and daughter, Sophie, are to act as the executors to administer the deceased’s estate which is to be inherited by Jack and Sophie equally.

If either Jack or Sophie die before their parents, then what would have been his or her one half share of the estate will be inherited by his or her children, if any, but if none then by the survivor of Jack and Sophie.

So if Jack predeceases his parents, the estate will be inherited 50% equally between his two children and 50% by Sophie. But if Sophie predeceases her parents, as she has no children, all of the estate is inherited by Jack.

In a calamity situation where none of these are alive to inherit then the Wills leave the estate to Simon and Jenny’s nephews and nieces equally.

Estate distribution WillHow can Nelsons help?

Jane Sutherland is a Partner in our expert Wills, Trusts & Probate team.

If you would like any further information in relation to estate distribution in a Will or any related subjects, please contact Jane or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.

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