Full Overview Of Legatee

The term “legatee” is important in inheritance law and estate planning. A legatee is an individual or entity designated to receive a legacy, which is a gift of personal property or money left to them in a will. Understanding the role of a legatee is crucial for anyone involved in estate planning, whether as a testator (the person making the will), an executor, or a beneficiary.

This comprehensive overview will explore the duties, rights, and implications of being a legatee, providing a clear understanding of what it entails within the legal framework of the United Kingdom.

In British inheritance law, a legatee is a person or entity that is bequeathed personal property or money through a will. The concept originates from the Latin word “legatum,” which means a bequest or gift. Legatees can be individuals, such as family members and friends, or organisations, such as charities and trusts.

Types of Legacies

Legacies, the gifts left to legatees, can take various forms, including:

  1. Pecuniary Legacy: This is a gift of a specific amount of money. For example, a testator might leave £10,000 to their grandchild.
  2. Specific Legacy: This refers to a particular item of personal property, such as a piece of jewellery, a car, or a family heirloom. An example would be leaving a specific painting to a friend.
  3. Residuary Legacy: This involves the remainder of the estate after all debts, taxes, expenses, and other legacies have been paid. The residuary legatee receives what is left over, which can include money, property, or other assets.
  4. Contingent Legacy: This type of legacy depends on the occurrence of a certain event. For instance, a legacy might be left to someone only if they are married or have reached a certain age by the time of the testator’s death.

The Role and Rights of a Legatee

Being named a legatee in a will brings certain rights and responsibilities. The primary role of a legatee is to receive the bequest designated to them by the testator. However, there are several legal and practical aspects to consider:

  1. Notification and Acceptance: After the death of the testator, the executor of the will is responsible for notifying the legatees about their bequests. Legatees have the right to accept or decline the legacy. While it is uncommon, a legatee may choose to refuse a legacy, often due to potential tax implications or personal reasons.
  2. Right to Information: Legatees are entitled to receive information about the estate’s administration. This includes being informed about the assets and liabilities of the estate, the progress of the administration, and any potential delays or issues.
  3. Legal Standing: If there are disputes or challenges to the will, legatees have the legal standing to participate in proceedings. They can contest or defend the validity of the will, depending on the circumstances.
  4. Receipt of Legacy: Once all debts, taxes, and other expenses have been settled, legatees receive their bequests. The timing can vary depending on the complexity of the estate and the efficiency of the executor.

Tax Implications for Legatees

One of the crucial aspects legatees must consider is the tax implications of receiving a legacy. In the UK, inheritance tax (IHT) is the primary tax affecting estates and legacies. Here are some key points:

  1. Inheritance Tax: The executor is responsible for paying any inheritance tax due from the estate before distributing the legacies. The standard inheritance tax rate is 40% on the value of the estate above the nil-rate band, which is currently £325,000 (as of the 2024 tax year). Certain reliefs and exemptions, such as the residence nil-rate band, can reduce the taxable amount.
  2. Income Tax: Legacies themselves are generally not subject to income tax. However, if a legacy generates income, such as interest or dividends, that income may be subject to income tax.
  3. capital gains tax: If a legatee decides to sell a bequeathed asset, such as property or shares, they may be liable for capital gains tax on the profit made from the sale. The tax is calculated based on the increase in value from the date of inheritance to the date of sale.

Practical Considerations for Legatees

Receiving a legacy can have significant emotional and financial implications. Legatees should consider the following practical aspects:

  1. Financial Planning: Legatees should incorporate their new assets into their financial planning. This might involve consulting with a financial advisor to manage the legacy effectively, whether it involves investing a monetary bequest or maintaining a physical asset.
  2. Legal Advice: It is advisable for legatees to seek legal advice, especially if the estate is complex or if there are potential disputes. A solicitor can help navigate the legal process, ensure that their rights are protected, and advise on any tax liabilities.
  3. Emotional Impact: Inheriting from a loved one can be emotionally challenging. Legatees should allow themselves time to grieve and come to terms with their loss while managing the practical aspects of their inheritance.

Case Studies

To illustrate the role of a legatee, it is helpful to consider some real-world scenarios:

  1. Family Legacy: Mr. Smith leaves a will bequeathing £50,000 to his daughter, Anna, and his collection of antique watches to his nephew, John. Anna uses the money to pay off her mortgage, significantly improving her financial stability. John, a watch enthusiast, cherishes the collection, which has both sentimental and financial value. Both Anna and John consult with financial and legal advisors to manage their inheritances effectively.
  2. Charitable Bequest: Mrs. Jones, a philanthropist, leaves a residuary legacy to a local animal shelter. The shelter, as the residuary legatee, receives the remaining assets of Mrs. Jones’ estate after all other legacies and expenses are paid. The funds allow the shelter to expand its facilities and care for more animals. The shelter’s management works closely with the executor to ensure the bequest is utilised as per Mrs. Jones’ wishes.


In conclusion, the role of a legatee is significant in the realm of inheritance law. Understanding the rights, responsibilities, and implications of being a legatee is essential for effectively managing a legacy. Legatees must navigate legal, financial, and emotional aspects while ensuring compliance with relevant tax laws and regulations. By seeking appropriate advice and planning carefully, legatees can honour the intentions of the testator and make the most of their bequests.

At DLS Solicitors, we are committed to providing comprehensive legal support to legatees, guiding them through the complexities of estate administration, and ensuring their rights and interests are protected. Whether you are a potential legatee, an executor, or involved in any aspect of estate planning, our expertise can help you navigate the process with confidence and clarity.

Legatee FAQ'S

A legatee is a person or entity who receives a legacy (a gift of personal property) under the terms of a will. This can include money, personal items, or other assets.

A legatee specifically receives personal property under a Will, whereas a beneficiary can receive any type of asset, including real estate, personal property, or financial assets. All legatees are beneficiaries, but not all beneficiaries are legatees.

A legatee has the right to receive the specific legacy bequeathed to them in the Will, as long as the estate has sufficient assets to cover all debts, taxes, and expenses first. They also have the right to be informed about the administration of the estate.

Yes, a legatee can refuse or disclaim a legacy. This must be done in writing and submitted to the executor. The disclaimed legacy then becomes part of the residuary estate and is distributed according to the terms of the will or the rules of intestacy.

If a legatee predeceases the testator, the legacy typically lapses and falls into the residuary estate, unless the will specifies an alternative legatee or includes a survivorship clause.

Yes, a legatee can contest a will if they believe there are grounds such as lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, fraud, or improper execution. Contesting a will involves legal proceedings.

The executor is responsible for administering the estate, which includes identifying and distributing the specific legacies to the legatees as outlined in the Will. They must ensure all debts and taxes are paid before distributing the assets.

Legatees themselves do not pay inheritance tax on their legacies. Instead, the estate is responsible for paying any inheritance tax due before the assets are distributed to the legatees. However, legatees may have to pay income tax on income generated from the inherited assets.

If a legatee is not receiving their legacy, they should contact the executor for an explanation. If the issue is not resolved, they may need to seek legal advice or apply to the court to compel the executor to distribute the legacy.

Yes, a legatee can also be an executor. It is common for executors to also be beneficiaries or legatees under the Will. They must, however, act impartially and in accordance with the law and the terms of the Will.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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