Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Why is it called a Last Will and Testament?

By: Adam A. Czaya, Esq.

This is a question often posed to us by our estate planning clients and an interesting bit of legal trivia. Historically, a document called a “will” disposed of a testator’s real property, while a “testament” disposed of his personal property. They were often combined into single a document called a “Will and Testament” to dispose of both types of property more efficiently.

Today, we often refer to the single document as a “Last Will and Testament,” although that title assumes that the document is the final statement of the testator’s estate planning wishes, which isn’t always the case. To avoid this potential misstatement, some estate planning lawyers will simply title the document “John Smith’s Will,” or “The Will of John Smith,” as the term “will” has evolved to encompass the historical meanings of the legal terms “will” and “testament” in both colloquial and legal language. However, many lawyers, perhaps wishing to preserve a bit of the history associated with the document, retain the title “Last Will and Testament,” since either title is legally effective.

If you would like to create or update your last will and testament, please feel free to contact our office and schedule a free consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.