There are multiple types of legacies, or gifts, which can be given in a will. These include charitable gifts, residual legacies, and specific and pecuniary legacies. The difference between specific and pecuniary legacies can be inconsequential, but in some circumstance may impact whether the gift is valid or not.
A specific legacy is a gift of an identifiable asset to an identified person.
A pecuniary legacy is the gift of a sum of money to an identified person.
A pecuniary legacy will always be paid, as long there are sufficient funds left in the estate, or assets worth the value of the pecuniary legacy. The executors can sell the asset to pay the gift, or may agree with the legatee to give them assets worth the value of their gift. If, however, there are not sufficient funds left in the estate, then all pecuniary legacies will have to be reduced in equal proportion, in a process known as abatement.
On the other hand, a specific legacy can only be given if the asset in question I still in the possession of estate at the time of death. For example, if the will states that “I give Rose Cottage to my son”, but Rose Cottage was sold a year before death, the legacy will be invalid, and the legatee will not receive anything from this term of the will. The gift cannot be substituted by other assets.