A written and signed document of how an individual wishes to distribute his or her possessions to designated people after death.
A legal declaration of how a person wishes his or her possessions to be disposed of after death.
A legally executed document containing this declaration.
Duhaime Legal Dictionary
A written statement, usually signed, made by an individual, which directs the distribution of their property when they die.
Legal means by which an owner of property disposes of his assets in the event of his death. The term is also used for the written instrument in which the testator’s dispositions are expressed. There is also an oral will, called a nuncupative will, valid only in certain jurisdictions, but otherwise often upheld if it is considered a death-bed bequest.
n. a written document which leaves the estate of the person who signed the will to named persons or entities (beneficiaries, legatees, divisees) including portions or percentages of the estate, specific gifts, creation of trusts for management and future distribution of all or a portion of the estate (a testamentary trust). A will usually names an executor (and possibly substitute executors) to manage the estate, states the authority and obligations of the executor in the management and distribution of the estate, sometimes gives funeral and/or burial instructions, nominates guardians of minor children and spells out other terms. To be valid the will must be signed by the person who made it (testator), be dated (but an incorrect date will not invalidate the will) and witnessed by two people (except in Vermont which requires three). In some states the witnesses must be disinterested, or in some states, a gift to a witness is void, but the will is valid. A will totally in the handwriting of the testator, signed and dated (a "holographic will") but without witnesses, is valid in many, but not all, states. If the will (also called a Last Will and Testament) is still in force at the time of the death of the testator (will writer), and there is a substantial estate and/or real estate, then the will must be probated (approved by the court, managed and distributed by the executor under court supervision). If there is no executor named or the executor is dead or unable or unwilling to serve, an administrator ("with will annexed") will be appointed by the court. A written amendment or addition to a will is called a "codicil" and must be signed, dated and witnessed just as is a will, and must refer to the original will it amends. If there is no estate, including the situation in which the assets have all been placed in a trust, then the will need not be probated.
Lect Law Library
The legal declaration of a man's intentions of what he wills to be performed after his death.
The terms will and testament are synonymous, and they are used indifferently by common lawyers, or one for the other.
There are five essential requisites to make a good will.
The testator must be legally capable of making a will. Generally all persons who may make valid contracts can dispose of their property by will. See Parties to contracts. This act requires a power of the mind freely to dispose of property. Infants, because of their tender age, and married women, on account of the supposed influence and control of their husbands, have no capacity to make a will, with these exceptions, that infants at common law may dispose of their personal estate, the males when over fourteen years of age, and the females when over twelve; this rule in relation to infants is not uniform in the United States. Persons devoid of understanding, as idiots and lunatics, cannot make a will.The testator at the time of making his will must have animum test-andi, or a serious intention to make such will. If a man therefore jestingly or boastingly and not seriously, writes or says that such a person shall have his goods or be his executor, this is no will.
The mind of the testator in making his will must be free, and not moved by fear, fraud or flattery. In such cases the will is void or at least voidable.
There must be a person to take, capable of taking; for to render a devise or bequest valid there must be a donee in esse, or in rerum natura, and one that shall have capacity to take the thing given, when it is to vest, or the gift shall be void.
The will must be put in proper form., Wills are either written or nuncupative.
A will in writing must be, 1. Written on paper or parchment; it may be in any language, and in any character, provided it can be read or understood. 2. It must be signed by the testator or some person authorized by him; but a sealing has been held to be a sufficient signing. And it ought to be signed by the attesting witnesses. In some states three witnesses are required, who should sign the will as such at the request and in the presence of the testator and of each other. This formality should generally be pursued, as the testator may have lands in such states which would not pass without it. 3. It must be published, that is, the testator must do some act from which it can be concluded that he intended the instrument to operate as his will. 4. To make a good will of goods and chattels there must be an executor named in it, otherwise it will be a codocil only, and the party is said to die intestate; in such a case administration must be granted.
A nuncupative will or testament, is a verbal declaration by a testator of his will before a competent number of legal witnesses.Before the statute of frauds they were very common, but by that statute which has been substantially adopted in a number of the states, these wills were laid under many restrictions.
In New York nuncupative wills have been abolished, except made by a soldier while in actual military service, or by a mariner while at sea.It is a rule that the last will revokes all former wills. It follows then that a man cannot by any testamentary act impose upon himself the inability of making another inconsistent with and revoking the first will.
A will voluntarily and intentionally made by a competent testator, according to the form required by law, may be avoided, 1st. By revocation and 2d. By fraud.
Among the civilians they have two other kinds of wills, namely: the mystic, which is a will enveloped in a paper and sealed, and the witnesses attest that fact, the other is the olographic; which is wholly written by the testator himself.
A document under which a will maker (testator) states his or her intentions regarding: the persons (beneficiaries) who will receive the will maker's property, the person or entity (executor) who will carry out the will maker's wishes, and, if necessary, the person (guardian) who will care for the will maker's minor children; In general, any instrument, executed with the required formalities conferring no present rights but intended to take effect on the death of the maker, which contains his intention respecting the disposition of his property.
The Free (Legal) Dictionary
A document in which a person specifies the method to be applied in the management and distribution of his estate after his death.
A will is the legal instrument that permits a person, the testator, to make decisions on how his estate will be managed and distributed after his death. At Common Law, an instrument disposing of Personal Property was called a "testament," whereas a will disposed of real property. Over time the distinction has disappeared so that a will, sometimes called a "last will and testament," disposes of both real and personal property.
If a person does not leave a will, or the will is declared invalid, the person will have died intestate, resulting in the distribution of the estate according to the laws of Descent and Distribution of the state in which the person resided. Because of the importance of a will, the law requires it to have certain elements to be valid. Apart from these elements, a will may be ruled invalid if the testator made the will as the result of undue influence, fraud, or mistake.
A will serves a variety of important purposes. It enables a person to select his heirs rather than allowing the state laws of descent and distribution to choose the heirs, who, although blood relatives, might be people the testator dislikes or with whom he is unacquainted. A will allows a person to decide which individual could best serve as the executor of his estate, distributing the property fairly to the beneficiaries while protecting their interests, rather than allowing a court to appoint a stranger to serve as administrator. A will safeguards a person's right to select an individual to serve as guardian to raise his young children in the event of his death.
A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his estate and provides for the transfer of his property at death. For the devolution of property not disposed of by will, see inheritance and intestacy.
In the strictest sense, a "will" has historically been limited to real property while "testament" applies only to dispositions of personal property (thus giving rise to the popular title of the document as "Last Will and Testament"), though this distinction is seldom observed today. A will may also create a testamentary trust that is effective only after the death of the testator.