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1. What different types of legacies are there?

Specific legacies

It is a gift of something the testator owns at the date he makes his will. The testator must specifically identify or describe the gift in his will. He must own the specific gift at the time of his death in order to pass the gift to the designated beneficiary. Such gifts are usually introduced by the word “my”, e.g. “all my shares in HSBC” or “my apartment: No 2 Sky Towers”.


General legacies

It is a gift of no specifically identified item which the beneficiary is to receive but merely a description of property to be passed. The testator does not necessarily own a general gift at the date of death. E.g. “HK$1,000 to my daughter Jane”; “500 shares in HSBC to Jason”.


Note the different effects produced by the following clauses:

  • “I give 500 shares in HSBC to Jason”: This is a general gift. If I do not own 500 shares in HSBC at the time of death, my personal representative will need to buy 500 shares in HSBC for Jason.
  • “I give my shares in HSBC to Jason”: My personal representative will only distribute the HSBC shares that I own to Jason and will not need to buy any new shares. This is a specific gift, but it may fail for uncertainty.  It is better to specify the amount of the shares.


Pecuniary legacies

It is a gift of a stated amount of money to a beneficiary. E.g. “HK$1,000 to my daughter Ruby”.


Demonstrative legacies

  1. A gift in a will that is not a gift of a specified asset in the testator’s estate, but instead designates a specific amount or quantity to be paid from a specified source. For instance, “I give to my sister HKD100 from my savings account with Y bank”.
  2. A demonstrative legacy is a general legacy in nature, but it is directed to be fulfilled from a specified fund or a particular part of the testator’s estate.


Residuary legacies

A residuary gift is the remaining assets of an estate after all the specific and general legacies have been paid and other necessary provisions have been made.


Class legacies

When beneficiaries are recognized through a general or collective formula, typically based on their relationship rather than by name, a gift is considered to be to a class. Such a gift is intended for a group of beneficiaries rather than for individual recipient(s). g. “To my children”, but not “To my children, Peter and Wing”.