Home Definition What Is A Residuary Clause (Legal Definition And Importance)

What Is A Residuary Clause (Legal Definition And Importance)

What is a Residuary Clause?

How do you legally define it?

What are the important elements you should know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s dig into our succession and probate laws!

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

Residuary Clause Basics 

A residuary clause is a provision in a will or trust allowing for any remaining estate property disposition when all gifts have been satisfied.

For instance, when you do not specifically name an asset for assignment to an heir or you forgot to mention who is the beneficiary of a property you owned following your death, the residual clause of your will gets triggered.

In essence, all the leftover assets where you did not specifically name a beneficiary or forgot to bequeath will be captured by the residual clause.

With the residual clause, you’ll manage all assets, property or belongings that were not specifically mentioned in your will and testament to ensure nothing is left unassigned.

If you do not have a residual clause and property remains in your estate after all the provisions of the will have been satisfied, that’s when the probate court may need to get involved to distribute the remaining assets in accordance with the law.

Residuary Clause definition

How do you legally define a residuary clause?

A residuary clause in a will or trust is a “catch-all” provision applicable to any assets or property not specifically gifted or disposed of by the will.

The objective is to ensure that all estate assets are passed on to the desired legatees or heirs.

The residual provision may cover:

  • Who will inherit assets not specifically named in the will
  • How to handle a deceased beneficiary or a person disclaiming the assets
  • What happens when a non-probate asset reverts to the descendant’s probate estate 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a residuary clause is defined as:

A clause in a will disposing of a residue

Residuary estate 

In probate law, a residuary estate (or residue of the estate) is a term used to refer to an estate where assets remain in the estate after all the gifts and bequests have been satisfied.

The term “residuary” or “residual” refers to property or assets that remain in the estate that needs to be distributed but where the will does not specifically define how.

Residual clauses are essential in handling estate property distribution when:

  • The testator did not specifically name certain assets in the will
  • When certain property were overlooked 
  • When certain bequests are void due to the death of the beneficiary 

Without a residual provision, the estate’s assets will need to be disposed of in accordance with the succession laws as if the testator did not leave a will (intestate).

Sample residuary clause

A sample residuary clause can read as follows:

I, NAME, hereby bequeath all remaining property or assets of my estate to my children

Another example can be:

I, NAME, hereby bequeath my house, car and investments to my wife. Should there be any residual assets or property in my estate, I hereby bequeath the remainder to my son

Residuary Clause example

Let’s look at an example of a residuary clause to better understand the concept. 

For the sake of this example, let’s assume that Mary writes up her will and indicates that she’d like to designate her husband and children as heirs for her house, car and investments.

Imagine that a few years after she wrote her will, Mary buys a piece of land.

The piece of land is not specifically mentioned in her will nor does Mary update her will with a codicil.

In the event Mary passes away, her will expressly defines what should happen with the house, car and her investments but not the piece of land.

If Mary has a “residual clause” in her will, the piece of land will be disposed of according to the residual provision allowing her to handle any assets or property not specifically gifted.

Without a residual clause, the piece of land may need to be disposed of in accordance with the law as if Mary was intestate.


So what is the legal definition of Residuary Clause?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Residuary Clause:

  • A residuary clause is a provision in a will or trust where the testator provides instructions on how to distribute any assets leftover, overlooked or not specifically gifted
  • An estate where all the specific gifts of the will have been satisfied and assets still remain is called a residual estate having residue assets
  • The residuary bequest avoids the probate or succession laws to get triggered for residual assets that may need to be distributed and where the will does not specifically provide for the testator’s wishes 
72 Hour Clause
Abandonment Clause
Abatement Clause
Acceleration Clause
Accidental Death Clause
Ad Damnum Clause
Additional Perils Clause
Add-on Clause
Admiralty Clause
Admission Clause
Life insurance 
Residual Rights
Residual Value
Residuary Beneficiary
Residuary Bequest
Residuary Devise
Residuary Devisee
Residuary Disposition
Residuary estate
Residuary Gift
Residuary Legacy
Residuary trust
Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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