Will (law)

Will (law)

Overview
A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate
Estate (law)
An estate is the net worth of a person at any point in time. It is the sum of a person's assets - legal rights, interests and entitlements to property of any kind - less all liabilities at that time. The issue is of special legal significance on a question of bankruptcy and death of the person...

 and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death. For the devolution of property not disposed of by will, see inheritance
Inheritance
Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights and obligations upon the death of an individual. It has long played an important role in human societies...

 and intestacy
Intestacy
Intestacy is the condition of the estate of a person who dies owning property greater than the sum of their enforceable debts and funeral expenses without having made a valid will or other binding declaration; alternatively where such a will or declaration has been made, but only applies to part of...

.

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.
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Encyclopedia
A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate
Estate (law)
An estate is the net worth of a person at any point in time. It is the sum of a person's assets - legal rights, interests and entitlements to property of any kind - less all liabilities at that time. The issue is of special legal significance on a question of bankruptcy and death of the person...

 and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death. For the devolution of property not disposed of by will, see inheritance
Inheritance
Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights and obligations upon the death of an individual. It has long played an important role in human societies...

 and intestacy
Intestacy
Intestacy is the condition of the estate of a person who dies owning property greater than the sum of their enforceable debts and funeral expenses without having made a valid will or other binding declaration; alternatively where such a will or declaration has been made, but only applies to part of...

.

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.

Requirements for creation


Any person over the age of majority
Age of majority
The age of majority is the threshold of adulthood as it is conceptualized in law. It is the chronological moment when minors cease to legally be considered children and assume control over their persons, actions, and decisions, thereby terminating the legal control and legal responsibilities of...

 and of sound mind (having appropriate mental capacity) can draft his or her own will with or without the aid of a lawyer. Additional requirements may vary, depending on the jurisdiction, but generally include the following requirements:
  • The testator must clearly identify himself or herself as the maker of the will, and that a will is being made; this is commonly called "publication" of the will, and is typically satisfied by the words "last will and testament" on the face of the document.
  • The testator should declare that he or she revokes all previous wills and codicils
    Codicil (will)
    A codicil is a document that amends, rather than replaces, a previously executed will. Amendments made by a codicil may add or revoke small provisions , or may completely change the majority, or all, of the gifts under the will...

    . Otherwise, a subsequent will revokes earlier wills and codicils only to the extent to which they are inconsistent. However, if a subsequent will is completely inconsistent with an earlier one, the earlier will is considered completely revoked by implication.
  • The testator may demonstrate that he or she has the capacity to dispose of his or her property ("sound mind"), and does so freely and willingly.
  • The testator must sign and date the will, usually in the presence of at least two disinterested witnesses (persons who are not beneficiaries). There may be extra witnesses, these are called "supernumerary" witnesses, if there is a question as to an interested-party conflict. Some jurisdictions, notably Pennsylvania, have long abolished any requirement for witnesses. In the United States, Louisiana requires both attestation by two witnesses as well as notarization by a notary public. "Holographic" or handwritten wills generally require no witnesses to be valid.
  • If witnesses are designated to receive property under the will they are witnesses to, this has the effect, in many jurisdictions, of either (i) disallowing them to receive under the will, or (ii) invalidating their status as a witness. In a growing number of states in the United States, however, an interested party is only an improper witness as to the clauses that benefit him or her (for instance, in Illinois
    Illinois
    Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

    ).
  • The testator's signature must be placed at the end of the will. If this is not observed, any text following the signature will be ignored, or the entire will may be invalidated if what comes after the signature is so material that ignoring it would defeat the testator's intentions.
  • One or more beneficiaries (devisees, legatees) must generally be clearly stated in the text, but some jurisdictions allow a valid will that merely revokes a previous will, revokes a disposition in a previous will, or names an executor.


There is no legal requirement that a will be drawn up by a lawyer, although there are pitfalls into which home-made wills can fall. The person who makes a will is not available to explain him or herself, or to correct any technical deficiency or error in expression, when it comes into effect on that person's death, and so there is little room for mistake. A common error (for example) in the execution of home-made wills in England is to use a beneficiary (typically a spouse or other close family members) as a witness although this has the effect in law of disinheriting the witness regardless of the provisions of the will.

Some jurisdictions recognize a holographic will
Holographic will
A holographic will is a will and testament that has been entirely handwritten and signed by the testator. Normally, a will must be signed by witnesses attesting to the validity of the testator's signature and intent, but in many jurisdictions, holographic wills that have not been witnessed are...

, made out entirely in the testator's own hand, or in some modern formulations, with material provisions in the testator's hand. The distinctive feature of a holographic will is less that it is handwritten by the testator and often that it need not be witnessed. In England, the formalities of wills are relaxed for soldiers who express their wishes on active service; any such will is known as a serviceman's will. A minority of jurisdictions even recognize the validity of nuncupative wills (oral wills), particularly for military personnel or merchant sailors. However, there are often constraints on the disposition of property if such an oral will is used.

A will may not include a requirement that an heir commit an illegal, immoral, or other act against public policy as a condition of receipt. In community property
Community property
Community property is a marital property regime that originated in civil law jurisdictions and is now also found in some common law jurisdictions...

 jurisdictions, a will cannot be used to disinherit a surviving spouse, who is entitled to at least a portion of the testator's estate. In the United States, children may be disinherited by a parent's will, except in Louisiana, where a minimum share is guaranteed to surviving children. Many civil law countries follow a similar rule. In England and Wales from 1933 to 1975, a will could disinherit a spouse but since 1975 such an attempt can be defeated by a court order if it leaves the surviving spouse (or other entitled dependent) without reasonable financial provision.

Types of wills generally include:
  • nuncupative (non-culpatory) - oral or dictated; often limited to sailors or military personnel
  • holographic- written in the hand of the testator; in many jurisdictions, the signature and the material terms of the holographic will must be in the handwriting of the testator.
  • self-proved- in solemn form with affidavits of subscribing witnesses to avoid probate
  • notarial - will in public form and prepared by a civil-law notary (civil-law jurisdictions and Louisiana, United States)
  • mystic- sealed until death
  • serviceman's will - will of person in active-duty military service and usually lacking certain formalities, particularly under English law
  • reciprocal/mirror/mutual/husband and wife wills - wills made by two or more parties (typically spouses) that make similar or identical provisions in favor of each other
  • unsolemn will - will in which the executor is unnamed
  • will in solemn form - signed by testator and witnesses

Probate


After the testator has died, a probate
Probate
Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property under the valid will. A probate court decides the validity of a testator's will...

 proceeding may be initiated in court
Court
A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

 to determine the validity of the will or wills that the testator may have created, i.e., which will satisfy the legal requirements, and to appoint an executor
Executor
An executor, in the broadest sense, is one who carries something out .-Overview:...

. In most cases, during probate, at least one witness is called upon to testify or sign a "proof of witness" affidavit. In some jurisdictions, however, statutes may provide requirements for a "self-proving" will (must be met during the execution of the will), in which case witness testimony may be forgone during probate. If the will is ruled invalid in probate, then inheritance will occur under the laws of intestacy as if a will were never drafted. Often there is a time limit, usually 30 days, within which a will must be admitted to probate. Only an original will can be admitted to probate in the vast majority of jurisdictions even the most accurate photocopy will not suffice.

It is a good idea that the testator give his executor the power to pay debts, taxes, and administration expenses (probate
Probate
Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property under the valid will. A probate court decides the validity of a testator's will...

, etc.). Warren Burger's will did not contain this, which wound up costing his estate thousands. This is not a consideration under English law, which provides that all such expenses will fall on the estate in any case.

Methods and effect


Intentional physical destruction of a will by the testator will revoke it, through deliberately burning or tearing the physical document
Document
The term document has multiple meanings in ordinary language and in scholarship. WordNet 3.1. lists four meanings :* document, written document, papers...

 itself, or by striking out the signature
Signature
A signature is a handwritten depiction of someone's name, nickname, or even a simple "X" that a person writes on documents as a proof of identity and intent. The writer of a signature is a signatory. Similar to a handwritten signature, a signature work describes the work as readily identifying...

. In most jurisdictions, partial revocation is allowed if only part of the text or a particular provision is crossed out. Other jurisdictions will either ignore the attempt or hold that the entire will was actually revoked. A testator may also be able to revoke by the physical act of another (as would be necessary if he is physically incapacitated), if this is done in his presence and in the presence of witnesses. Some jurisdictions may presume that a will has been destroyed if it had been last seen in the possession of the testator but is found mutilated or cannot be found after his or her death.

A will may also be revoked by the execution of a new will. Most wills contain stock language that expressly revokes any wills that came before them, however, because normally a court will still attempt to read the wills together to the extent they are consistent.

In some jurisdictions, the complete revocation
Revocation
Revocation is the act of recall or annulment. It is the reversal of an act, the recalling of a grant, or the making void of some deed previously existing.-Contract law:...

 of a will automatically revives the next most recent will, while others hold that revocation leaves the testator with no will so that his or her heirs will instead inherit by intestate succession.

In England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

, marriage
Marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 will automatically revoke
Revocation
Revocation is the act of recall or annulment. It is the reversal of an act, the recalling of a grant, or the making void of some deed previously existing.-Contract law:...

 a will as it is presumed
Presumption
In the law of evidence, a presumption of a particular fact can be made without the aid of proof in some situations. The types of presumption includes a rebuttable discretionary presumption, a rebuttable mandatory presumption, and an irrebuttable or conclusive presumption. The invocation of a...

 that upon marriage, a testator
Testator
A testator is a person who has written and executed a last will and testament that is in effect at the time of his/her death. It is any "person who makes a will."-Related terms:...

 will want to review the will. A statement
Statement
Statement may refer to:* A kind of expression in language *Statement , declarative sentence that is either true or false*Statement , the smallest standalone element of an imperative programming language...

 in a will that it is made in contemplation
Contemplation
The word contemplation comes from the Latin word contemplatio. Its root is also that of the Latin word templum, a piece of ground consecrated for the taking of auspices, or a building for worship, derived either from Proto-Indo-European base *tem- "to cut", and so a "place reserved or cut out" or...

 of forthcoming marriage to a named person will override this.

Divorce, conversely, will not revoke a will, but in many jurisdictions, will have the effect that the former spouse is treated as if they had died before the testator and so will not benefit.

Where a will has been accidentally
Negligence
Negligence is a failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances. The area of tort law known as negligence involves harm caused by carelessness, not intentional harm.According to Jay M...

 destroyed, on evidence
Evidence
Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion. Giving or procuring evidence is the process of using those things that are either presumed to be true, or were themselves proven via evidence, to demonstrate an assertion's truth...

 that this is the case, a copy will or draft will may be admitted to probate
Probate
Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property under the valid will. A probate court decides the validity of a testator's will...

.

Dependent relative revocation


Many jurisdictions exercise an equitable doctrine known as dependent relative revocation ("DRR"). Under this doctrine, courts may disregard a revocation that was based on a mistake of law on the part of the testator as to the effect of the revocation. For example, if a testator mistakenly believes that an earlier will can be revived by the revocation of a later will, the court will ignore the later revocation if the later will comes closer to fulfilling the testator's intent than not having a will at all. The doctrine also applies when a testator executes a second, or new will and revokes his old will under the (mistaken) belief that the new will would be valid. However, for some reason the new will is not valid and a court may apply the doctrine to reinstate and probate the old will, as the court holds that the testator would prefer the old will to intestate succession.

Before applying the doctrine, courts may require (with rare exceptions) that there have been an alternative plan of disposition of the property. That is, after revoking the prior will, the testator could have made an alternative plan of disposition. Such a plan would show that the testator intended the revocation to result in the property going elsewhere, rather than just being a revoked disposition. Secondly, courts require either that the testator have recited his mistake in the terms of the revoking instrument, or that the mistake be established by clear and convincing evidence. For example, when the testator made the original revocation, he must have erroneously noted that he was revoking the gift "because the intended recipient has died" or "because I will enact a new will tomorrow."

DRR may be applied to restore a gift erroneously struck from a will if the intent of the testator was to enlarge that gift, but will not apply to restore such a gift if the intent of the testator was to revoke the gift in favor of another person. For example, suppose Tom has a will that bequeaths $5,000 to his secretary, Alice Johnson. If Tom crosses out that clause and writes "$7,000 to Alice Johnson" in the margin, but does not sign or date the writing in the margin, most states would find that Tom had revoked the earlier provision, but had not effectively amended his will to add the second; however, under DRR the revocation would be undone because Tom was acting under the mistaken belief that he could increase the gift to $7,000 by writing that in the margin. Therefore, Alice will get 5,000 dollars. However, the doctrine of relative revocation will not apply if the interlineation decreases the amount of the gift from the original provision (e.g., "$5,000 to Alice Johnson" is crossed out and replaced with "$3,000 to Alice Johnson" without Testator's signature or the date in the margin; DRR does not apply and Alice Johnson will take nothing).

Similarly, if Tom crosses out that clause and writes in the margin "$5,000 to Betty Smith" without signing or dating the writing, the gift to Alice will be effectively revoked. In this case, it will not be restored under the doctrine of DRR because even though Tom was mistaken about the effectiveness of the gift to Betty, that mistake does not affect Tom's intent to revoke the gift to Alice. Because the gift to Betty will be invalid for lack of proper execution, that $5,000 will go to Tom's residuary estate.

Election under the will


Also referred to as "electing to take against the will." In the United States, many states have probate
Probate
Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property under the valid will. A probate court decides the validity of a testator's will...

 statutes which permit the surviving spouse of the decedent to choose to receive a particular share of deceased spouse's estate in lieu of receiving the specified share left to him or her under the deceased spouse's will. As a simple example, under Iowa law (see Code of Iowa Section 633.238 (2005)), the deceased spouse leaves a will which expressly gifts the marital home to someone other than the surviving spouse. The surviving spouse may elect, contrary to the intent of the will, to live in the home for the remainder of his/her lifetime. This is called a "life estate
Life estate
A life estate is a concept used in common law and statutory law to designate the ownership of land for the duration of a person's life. In legal terms it is an estate in real property that ends at death when there is a "reversion" to the original owner...

" and terminates immediately upon the surviving spouse's death.

The historical and social policy purposes of such statutes are to assure that the surviving spouse receives a statutorily set minimum amount of property from the decedent. Historically, these statutes were enacted to prevent the deceased spouse from leaving the survivor destitute, thereby shifting the burden of care to the social welfare system.

In history



Charles Vance Millar
Charles Vance Millar
Charles Vance Millar was a Canadian lawyer and financier. However, he is now best known for his penchant for practical jokes and his unusual will which reflected that sense of humor.-Early years:...

's will was notorious for offering the bulk of his estate to the Toronto
Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

 woman who had the greatest number of children in the ten years after his death (the Great Stork Derby
Great Stork Derby
The Great Stork Derby was a contest during the period from 1926 to 1936, where women in Toronto, Canada, competed to produce the most babies in order to qualify for an unusual bequest in a will....

). Attempts to invalidate it by his would-be heirs were unsuccessful, and the bulk of Millar's fortune eventually went to four women.

The Thellusson Will Case
Thellusson Will Case
The Thellusson Will Case is an English trusts law case. It was a law suit resulting from the will of Peter Thellusson, an English merchant ....

 was fictionalized by Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 as Jarndyce and Jarndyce
Jarndyce and Jarndyce
Jarndyce and Jarndyce is a fictional court case in Chancery in the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens.The case concerns the fate of a large inheritance. It has dragged on for many generations prior to the action of the novel, so that, by the time it is resolved late in the narrative, legal costs...

in Bleak House
Bleak House
Bleak House is the ninth novel by Charles Dickens, published in twenty monthly installments between March 1852 and September 1853. It is held to be one of Dickens's finest novels, containing one of the most vast, complex and engaging arrays of minor characters and sub-plots in his entire canon...

, and led to Parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

 legislating against such accumulation of money for later distribution.

According to Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports is an American magazine published monthly by Consumers Union since 1936. It publishes reviews and comparisons of consumer products and services based on reporting and results from its in-house testing laboratory. It also publishes cleaning and general buying guides...

, as many as 56% of Americans don't have a will. Among the notables who died either without a valid will or no will
Intestacy
Intestacy is the condition of the estate of a person who dies owning property greater than the sum of their enforceable debts and funeral expenses without having made a valid will or other binding declaration; alternatively where such a will or declaration has been made, but only applies to part of...

 at all are Ross Alexander
Ross Alexander
Ross Alexander was an American stage and film actor.- Early life :Born Alexander Ross Smith in Brooklyn, New York, Alexander began his acting career in Broadway productions during the 1920s. By 1926 he was regarded as a promising leading man, with good looks and an easy and charming style and...

, Fatty Arbuckle, Anura Bandaranaike
Anura Bandaranaike
Anura Priyadarshi Solomon Dias Bandaranaike was a Sri Lankan politician, served as Speaker , and in several cabinet ministries as Foreign Minister briefly in 2005, Minister of Higher Education , Minister of Tourism , Minister of National Heritage and Leader of the Opposition...

, Madhav Prasad Birla
Madhav Prasad Birla
-See also:*Birla family*Birla Foundation*M. P. Birla Foundation Higher Secondary School-Source:*...

, Sonny Bono
Sonny Bono
Salvatore Phillip "Sonny" Bono was an American recording artist, record producer, actor, and politician whose career spanned over three decades.-Early life:...

, George Brent
George Brent
George Brent was an Irish film and television actor in American cinema.-Early life:He was born George Brendan Nolan in Raharabeg, County Roscommon on the opposite bank of the River Shannon from the town of Shannonbridge, County Offaly, Ireland, the son of a British Army officer.During the Irish...

, Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce
Leonard Alfred Schneider , better known by the stage name Lenny Bruce, was a Jewish-American comedian, social critic and satirist...

, Jacob A. Cantor
Jacob A. Cantor
Jacob Aaron Cantor was an American lawyer and politician from New York. He was a United States Representative from 1913 to 1915.-Life:...

, Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain
Kurt Donald Cobain was an American singer-songwriter, musician and artist, best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the grunge band Nirvana...

, Russ Columbo
Russ Columbo
Ruggiero Eugenio di Rodolpho Colombo , known as Russ Columbo, was an American singer, violinist and actor, most famous for his signature tune, "You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love", his compositions "Prisoner of Love" and "Too Beautiful For Words", and the legend surrounding his early...

, Sam Cooke
Sam Cooke
Samuel Cook, , better known under the stage name Sam Cooke, was an American gospel, R&B, soul, and pop singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. He is considered to be one of the pioneers and founders of soul music. He is commonly known as the King of Soul for his distinctive vocal abilities and...

, James Dean
James Dean
James Byron Dean was an American film actor. He is a cultural icon, best embodied in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause , in which he starred as troubled Los Angeles teenager Jim Stark...

, Sandy Dennis
Sandy Dennis
Sandra Dale “Sandy” Dennis was an American theater and film actress. In 1966, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.-Early life:...

, John Denver
John Denver
Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. , known professionally as John Denver, was an American singer/songwriter, activist, and humanitarian. After growing up in numerous locations with his military family, Denver began his music career in folk music groups in the late 1960s. His greatest commercial success...

, Divine, Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions...

, Cass Elliot
Cass Elliot
Cass Elliot , born Ellen Naomi Cohen and also known as Mama Cass, was an American singer and member of The Mamas & the Papas. After the group broke up, she released five solo albums. Elliot was found dead in her room in London, England, from an apparent heart attack after two weeks of sold-out...

, Chris Farley
Chris Farley
Christopher Crosby "Chris" Farley was an American comedian and actor. Farley was a member of Chicago's Second City Theatre and cast member of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live from 1990 to 1995....

, Bobby Fischer
Bobby Fischer
Robert James "Bobby" Fischer was an American chess Grandmaster and the 11th World Chess Champion. He is widely considered one of the greatest chess players of all time. Fischer was also a best-selling chess author...

, Redd Foxx
Redd Foxx
John Elroy Sanford , better known by his stage name Redd Foxx, was an American comedian and actor, best known for his starring role on the sitcom Sanford and Son.-Early life:...

, Mary Frann
Mary Frann
Mary Frann was an American actress best known for her role as Bob Newhart's wife, Joanna Loudon, on the television series Newhart.-Early life and career:...

, James A. Garfield, Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye
Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. , better known by his stage name Marvin Gaye, was an American singer-songwriter and musician with a three-octave vocal range....

, Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

, Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing...

, Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly
Charles Hardin Holley , known professionally as Buddy Holly, was an American singer-songwriter and a pioneer of rock and roll...

, Shemp Howard, Howard Hughes
Howard Hughes
Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. was an American business magnate, investor, aviator, engineer, film producer, director, and philanthropist. He was one of the wealthiest people in the world...

, Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

, Florence Griffith-Joyner
Florence Griffith-Joyner
Florence Griffith-Joyner , also known as Flo-Jo was an American track and field athlete. She is considered the "fastest woman of all time" based on the fact that she still holds the world record for both the 100 metres and 200 metres, both set in 1988 and never seriously challenged...

, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

, Ernie Kovacs
Ernie Kovacs
Ernie Kovacs was a Hungarian American comedian and actor.Kovacs' uninhibited, often ad-libbed, and visually experimental comedic style came to influence numerous television comedy programs for years after his death in an automobile accident...

, Harry Langdon
Harry Langdon
Harry Philmore Langdon was an American comedian who appeared in vaudeville, silent films , and talkies. He was briefly partnered with Oliver Hardy.-Life and career:...

, Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee was a Chinese American, Hong Kong actor, martial arts instructor, philosopher, film director, film producer, screenwriter, and founder of the Jeet Kune Do martial arts movement...

, Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

, Peter Lorre
Peter Lorre
Peter Lorre was an Austrian-American actor frequently typecast as a sinister foreigner.He caused an international sensation in 1931 with his portrayal of a serial killer who preys on little girls in the German film M...

, Jayne Mansfield
Jayne Mansfield
Jayne Mansfield was an American actress working both in Hollywood and on the Broadway theatre...

, Rocky Marciano
Rocky Marciano
Rocky Marciano , born Rocco Francis Marchegiano, was an American boxer and the heavyweight champion of the world from September 23, 1952, to April 27, 1956. Marciano is the only champion to hold the heavyweight title and go undefeated throughout his career. Marciano defended his title six times...

, Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, Steve McNair
Steve McNair
Stephen LaTreal McNair was an American football quarterback who spent the majority of his NFL career with the Tennessee Titans....

, Sal Mineo
Sal Mineo
Salvatore "Sal" Mineo, Jr. , was an American film and theatre actor, best known for his performance as John "Plato" Crawford opposite James Dean in the film Rebel Without a Cause...

, Carmen Miranda
Carmen Miranda
Carmen Miranda, GCIH was a Portuguese-born Brazilian samba singer, Broadway actress and Hollywood film star popular in the 1940s and 1950s. She was, by some accounts, the highest-earning woman in the United States and noted for her signature fruit hat outfit she wore in the 1943 movie The Gang's...

, Keith Moon
Keith Moon
Keith John Moon was an English musician, best known for being the drummer of the English rock group The Who. He gained acclaim for his exuberant and innovative drumming style, and notoriety for his eccentric and often self-destructive behaviour, earning him the nickname "Moon the Loon". Moon...

, Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was an African-American civil rights activist, whom the U.S. Congress called "the first lady of civil rights", and "the mother of the freedom movement"....

, Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

, Mihajlo Idvorski Pupin, Tupac Shakur
Tupac Shakur
Tupac Amaru Shakur , known by his stage names 2Pac and Makaveli, was an American rapper and actor. Shakur has sold over 75 million albums worldwide as of 2007, making him one of the best-selling music artists in the world...

, Don Simpson
Don Simpson
Donald Clarence "Don" Simpson was an American film producer, screenwriter, and actor. He is known for producing such hits as Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun and The Rock...

, Anna Nicole Smith
Anna Nicole Smith
In 1992 Smith was chosen by Hugh Hefner to appear on the cover of the March issue of Playboy, where she was listed as Vickie Smith, wearing a low-cut evening gown. The centerfold was photographed by Stephen Wayda. Smith said she planned to be "the next Marilyn Monroe". Becoming one of Playboys...

, William Desmond Taylor
William Desmond Taylor
William Desmond Taylor was an Irish-born American actor, successful film director of silent movies and a popular figure in the growing Hollywood film colony of the 1910s and early 1920s...

, Sharon Tate
Sharon Tate
Sharon Marie Tate was an American actress. During the 1960s she played small television roles before appearing in several films. After receiving positive reviews for her comedic performances, she was hailed as one of Hollywood's promising newcomers and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for...

, Tiny Tim
Tiny Tim (musician)
Tiny Tim , , born in Manhattan, was an American singer and ukulele player. He was most famous for his rendition of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" sung in a distinctive high falsetto/vibrato voice.-Rise to fame:Born to Lebanese parents in 1932, Khaury displayed musical talent at a very young age...

, Ritchie Valens
Ritchie Valens
Ritchie Valens was a Mexican-American singer, songwriter and guitarist....

, Hervé Villechaize
Hervé Villechaize
Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize was a French actor who achieved worldwide recognition for his role as Mr. Roarke's assistant, Tattoo, in the television series Fantasy Island...

, Barry White
Barry White
Barry White, born Barry Eugene Carter , was an American composer and singer-songwriter.A five-time Grammy Award-winner known for his distinctive bass voice and romantic image, White's greatest success came in the 1970s as a solo singer and with the Love Unlimited Orchestra, crafting many enduring...

, and Jimmy Witherspoon
Jimmy Witherspoon
Jimmy Witherspoon was an American jump blues singer.-Early life and career:James Witherspoon was born in Gurdon, Arkansas. He first attracted attention singing with Teddy Weatherford's band in Calcutta, India, which made regular radio broadcasts over the U. S. Armed Forces Radio Service during...

.

The longest known legal will is that of Englishwoman Frederica Evelyn Stilwell Cook
Frederica Evelyn Stilwell Cook
The last will and testament of Frederica Evelyn Stilwell Cook, who died 9 January 1925, age 68, is thought to be the longest will ever filed for probate.-The will:The will was 1066 pages and occupied four gilt-edged, leather-bound volumes...

. Probated in 1925, it was 1,066 pages, and had to be bound in 4 volumes; her estate was worth $100,000. The shortest known legal wills are those of Bimla Rishi of Delhi
Delhi
Delhi , officially National Capital Territory of Delhi , is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population in India, next to Mumbai. It is the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population with 16,753,265 inhabitants in the Territory at the 2011 Census...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 ("all to son") and Karl Tausch of Hesse
Hesse
Hesse or Hessia is both a cultural region of Germany and the name of an individual German state.* The cultural region of Hesse includes both the State of Hesse and the area known as Rhenish Hesse in the neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate state...

, Germany, ("all to wife") both containing only three words.

Freedom of disposition


The conception of the freedom of disposition by will, familiar as it is in modern England and the United States, both generally considered common law systems
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

, is by no means universal. In fact, complete freedom is the exception rather than the rule. Civil law
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

 systems often put some restrictions on the possibilities of disposal; see for example "Forced heirship
Forced heirship
Forced heirship is a form of partible inheritance whereby a deceased's estate is separated into an indefeasible portion, the forced estate, passing to those the deceased is survived by, and a discretionary portion, or free estate, to be freely disposed of by will...

".

Advocates for gays and lesbians have pointed to the inheritance rights of spouses as desirable for same-sex couples as well, through same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....

 or civil union
Civil union
A civil union, also referred to as a civil partnership, is a legally recognized form of partnership similar to marriage. Beginning with Denmark in 1989, civil unions under one name or another have been established by law in many developed countries in order to provide same-sex couples rights,...

s. Opponents of such advocacy rebut this claim by pointing to the ability of same-sex couples to disperse their assets by will. Historically, court
Court
A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

s have been more willing to strike down wills leaving property to a same-sex partner for reasons such as incapacity or undue influence
Undue influence
Undue influence is an equitable doctrine that involves one person taking advantage of a position of power over another person. It is where free will to bargain is not possible.-Undue influence in contract law:...

. See, for example, In Re Kaufmanns Will, 20 A.D.2d 464, 247 N.Y.S.2d 664 (1964), affd, 15 N.Y.2d 825, 257 N.Y.S.2d 941, 205 N.E.2d 864 (1965)

Terminology

  • Administrator
    Administrator (law)
    In law an administrator can be:* a person appointed by the court to handle the estate of someone who died without a will ....

    - person appointed or who petitions to administer an estate in an intestate succession. The antiquated English term of administratrix was used to refer to a female but is generally no longer in standard legal usage.
  • Beneficiary
    Beneficiary
    A beneficiary in the broadest sense is a natural person or other legal entity who receives money or other benefits from a benefactor. For example: The beneficiary of a life insurance policy, is the person who receives the payment of the amount of insurance after the death of the insured...

    - anyone receiving a gift or benefitting from a trust
  • Bequest
    Bequest
    A bequest is the act of giving property by will. Strictly, "bequest" is used of personal property, and "devise" of real property. In legal terminology, "bequeath" is a verb form meaning "to make a bequest."...

    - testamentary gift of personal property
    Personal property
    Personal property, roughly speaking, is private property that is moveable, as opposed to real property or real estate. In the common law systems personal property may also be called chattels or personalty. In the civil law systems personal property is often called movable property or movables - any...

    , traditionally other than money.
  • codicil
    Codicil (will)
    A codicil is a document that amends, rather than replaces, a previously executed will. Amendments made by a codicil may add or revoke small provisions , or may completely change the majority, or all, of the gifts under the will...

    - (1) amendment to a will; (2) a will that modifies or partially revokes an existing or earlier will.
  • Decedent
    Death
    Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

    - the deceased (U.S. term)
  • Demonstrative Legacy - a gift of a specific sum of money with a direction that is to be paid out of a particular fund.
  • Descent
    Descent
    Descent may refer to:In genealogy and inheritance:* Common descent, concept in evolutionary biology* Kinship and descent, one of the major concepts of cultural anthropology**Pedigree chart or family tree**Ancestry**Heritage*Phylogenetics...

    - succession to real property.
  • Devise
    Devise
    Devise may refer to:* To invent something* A disposition of real property in a will* Devise A Free and Open Software project providing application user authentication through Warden* Devise, Somme...

    - testamentary gift of real property
    Real property
    In English Common Law, real property, real estate, realty, or immovable property is any subset of land that has been legally defined and the improvements to it made by human efforts: any buildings, machinery, wells, dams, ponds, mines, canals, roads, various property rights, and so forth...

    .
  • Devisee - beneficiary of real property under a will.
  • Distribution - succession to personal property.
  • Executor
    Executor
    An executor, in the broadest sense, is one who carries something out .-Overview:...

    /executrix or personal representative [PR] - person named to administer the estate, generally subject to the supervision of the probate court, in accordance with the testator's wishes in the will. In most cases, the testator will nominate an executor/PR in the will unless that person is unable or unwilling to serve.
  • Inheritor
    Inheritor
    Inheritor may refer to:Film and stage* Inheritors , by Susan Glaspell* The Inheritors , a 1970 Argentine film* The Inheritors , by the Sterling Institute...

    - a beneficiary in a succession, testate or intestate.
  • Intestate - person who has not created a will, or who does not have a valid will at the time of death.
  • Legacy - testamentary gift of personal property, traditionally of money. Note: historically, a legacy has referred to either a gift of real property or personal property.
  • Legatee
    Legatee
    A legatee, in the law of wills, is any individual or organization bequeathed any portion of a testator's estate.-Usage:Depending upon local custom, legatees may be called "devisees." Traditionally, "legatees" took personal property under will and "devisees" took land under will. Brooker v....

    - beneficiary of personal property under a will, i.e., a person receiving a legacy.
  • Probate
    Probate
    Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property under the valid will. A probate court decides the validity of a testator's will...

    - legal process of settling the estate of a deceased person.
  • Specific legacy
    Specific legacy
    A specific legacy is a testamentary gift of a precisely identifiable object, distinguished from all other things of the same kind—such as, a gift of a particular piece of jewelry....

    (or specific bequest) - a testamentary gift of a precisely identifiable object.
  • Testate - person who dies having created a will before death.
  • Testator
    Testator
    A testator is a person who has written and executed a last will and testament that is in effect at the time of his/her death. It is any "person who makes a will."-Related terms:...

    - person who executes or signs a will; that is, the person whose will it is. The antiquated English term of Testatrix was used to refer to a female and is still in use in the US .

See also

  • Ademption
    Ademption
    Ademption is a term used in the law of wills to determine what happens when property bequeathed under a will is no longer in the testator's estate at the time of the testator's death. For a devise of a specific item of property , such property is considered adeemed, and the gift fails...

  • Estate Planning
    Estate planning
    Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging for the disposal of an estate. Estate planning typically attempts to eliminate uncertainties over the administration of a probate and maximize the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses...

  • Legal history of wills
  • Will aid
    Will Aid
    Will Aid is a charity will-writing scheme designed to reinforce the need for everyone to have a professionally drawn-up will and to raise funds for the participating charities....

  • Will contest
    Will contest
    A will contest, in the law of property, is a formal objection raised against the validity of a will, based on the contention that the will does not reflect the actual intent of the testator...


Books

  • Administration of Wills, Trusts, and Estates by Gordon W. Brown, Delmar Cengage Learning (ISBN 0-7668-5281-4) (ISBN 978-0-7668-5281-5)

External links