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Legal Advice and Will Wording

A group of students outside St John's College

The University advises that you speak to a qualified legal professional, who will help you to word your will.

Finding a lawyer

To search for solicitors in the UK, the following links to directories might be helpful:

• England and Wales: Law Society

• Scotland: Law Society of Scotland 

• Northern Ireland: Law Society of Northern Ireland.

Wording your will

Before you go to meet your lawyer, you might already be thinking about the wording for your gift. To help you prepare for a meeting with a lawyer and consider the sorts of topics which could need to be addressed, you might like to refer to the section on Making a will on the Law Society’s website.

How to refer to the University or a particular area of the institution

We cannot give advice on what to write in your will but we can suggest how to refer to the University’s colleges, departments and other units to ensure the gift is directed to the correct institution with the appropriate direction.

The University's registered address is Durham University, Palatine Centre, Stockton Road, Durham, DH1 3LE. When considering a gift, we suggest for the purpose of clarity that where your gift is to one of the University’s colleges the name of the college is set out as follows:  “[name] College of Durham University”.  If your gift is to either St Chad’s or St John’s they should not be set out in conjunction with Durham University as they are separate legal entities of the University.

Please note that Durham University is a UK Exempt Charity, meaning that it has charitable status and, as a higher education institution, it is regulated by the Office for Students. Therefore it does not have a Charity Number. If your lawyer would like to use a unique identifier in your will to refer to the University, with the exception of St Chad’s College and St John’s College, its tax registration number is X6507.

St John’s College and St Chad’s College

For enquiries about putting a gift in your will to St John’s or St Chad’s Colleges, either as the sole beneficiary of your donation or as a joint beneficiary with another department or unit of the University, please feel free to contact the University’s Legacies Manager, Louise McLaren, on 0191 334 6313 or email. If you would prefer though, you are also welcome to contact those colleges directly.

St John’s College is a separate registered charity and its charity number is 1141701. There is further information about gifts in wills on the St Johns College alumni pages and for enquiries about gifts of all kinds please email. Alternatively, please phone the Alumni and Development Office on 0191 334 3119.

Louise will be pleased to record any information you give for future reference. With your permission, she will share news of your planned gift and any detail provided with the Development Director of the appropriate college.

To contact St Chad’s College directly, please phone on 0191 334 3325. The charity number for St Chad’s is 1142958.


Estate – All the money, possessions, property and investments belonging to a person on their death.

Beneficiary – An individual or organisation given a gift of any kind in a will.

Executor – an individual or organisation referred to in a will as responsible for the administration of the estate, including the distribution of gifts.

Codicil – A document on which alterations to your existing will are recorded, with a statement specifically linking it to your existing will.

Letter of wishes – If someone leaves the distribution of their estate to the discretion of their executors, or if they decide to create a trust with trustees to distribute their estate, they might choose to leave a letter of wishes which gives some guidance about their wishes.

Bequest or legacy – These terms are used with differing emphasis in different countries, but generally both terms are understood in the UK to refer to a gift of any kind written into a will.

Monetary gifts are referred to as pecuniary or residuary legacies:

Pecuniary legacy - A specific sum of money written into a will.

Residuary legacy - The residue of the estate or a portion of it. The residue is the remainder of the estate after the specific gifts have been distributed.

Specific bequest – A gift of an item, such as a painting, book, musical instrument, house, photographs, stocks and shares.

Mirror wills – A couple with shared assets might write mirror wills which respect each other’s wishes, whilst ensuring that their home and other assets are initially kept by the surviving spouse and only distributed to other parties on the death of the survivor.

Reversionary bequest – A gift, sometimes of property, whereby the bequest is kept (perhaps used) by the surviving spouse until their death, when the capital finally passes to the beneficiary.

Probate – The process of officially certifying that a will is valid, which must be done before the estate can be distributed to beneficiaries.