What Is the Terminology of the Last Will & Testament?

By Marie Murdock

You may have had a will prepared by your attorney and walked out of his office feeling confused by the language in the will. “Testator," "testatrix," "executor," "executrix," "devisee” -- you may question whether the attorney is speaking a foreign language. Latin has influenced much of the legal terminology in use today, so you may need some help in deciphering these terms.

You may have had a will prepared by your attorney and walked out of his office feeling confused by the language in the will. “Testator," "testatrix," "executor," "executrix," "devisee” -- you may question whether the attorney is speaking a foreign language. Latin has influenced much of the legal terminology in use today, so you may need some help in deciphering these terms.

Testator or Testatrix

The testator is a male individual who is making a will, while the testatrix is the female version of the same. If you have just had a will prepared, then you have become a testator or a testatrix.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now

Executor or Executrix

The executor -- male -- or executrix -- female -- is the person you have named in your will to fulfill its terms after your death. Many states have adopted the use of the term “personal representative” to refer to this individual, as it had become burdensome to continually refer to the male and female versions as well as their plural counterparts -- “executors" and "executrices.” The term “personal representative” is used widely in probate courts today, although many people still frequently refer to this person as the “executor” of a will.

Devisee

The devisee or devisees are the person or persons you have named in your will to inherit your property. This term generally differs from its intestate counterpart, “heirs,” in that you may name someone in your will to inherit your property that is not a direct descendant or relative. For instance, you may name a lifelong friend as a devisee under the will, but she would not be considered as an heir who would ordinarily have inherited from you.

Per Stirpes

The terms “per stirpes” and “per capita” may determine how your property is distributed after your death. Per stirpes means that if one of your devisees dies before you, his share of your property would pass to his lineal descendants. For example, if you devise property to your four children and one of them dies before you, his children, or your grandchildren, would inherit his share. If you stated that the property passes “per capita,” followed by “to my remaining devisees,” then the share of the deceased child would be split equally between the remaining devisees to the exclusion of your grandchildren. If you stated that it passes “per capita to my remaining descendants,” then your deceased child’s children would share equally with the remaining devisees under the will so that each grandchild gets the same percentage of your estate as each surviving child.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now
Last Will & Testament Terms

References

Related articles

Order of Succession for Wills

Wills can be used to leave property to children and/or other relatives after the testator's -- the person writing the will -- dies. If a beneficiary named in a will dies before the testator, the property that he was to receive from the will may go to his own heirs. The order of succession for wills determines what and how much the testator's heirs receive.

What If a Will Is Written Before a Grandchild Is Born?

A well-written will may cover most scenarios involving inheritance by including language or definitions to that effect. The terms “issue” or “lineal descendants” are often used to make it possible for children of subsequent generations to inherit from the grandparent. A grandparent whose will names grandchildren as beneficiaries should consider adding a similar provision referring to future grandchildren. Sometimes, however, a will does not specifically reference unknown or future generations. In such cases, state law or other will provisions determine the disposition of property.

How Is Property Divided Equally With a Will in Place?

Often, it is not possible to divide an entire life's worth of property equally between two or more people, but you can make your best efforts to do so in your will. If you have valuable property that cannot be divided, you may instead decide to make specific gifts to your loved ones, and avoid the hassle of trying to divide your estate perfectly evenly. After you die, an executor or personal representative may be appointed to distribute your property according to your wishes.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

In Last Wills, Trusts & Estates, Can an Executor Also Be a Beneficiary?

A person may name his adult child or other trusted relative or friend as executor in his will. He may also name ...

How to Write a Will for Property

Modern courts make no distinction between the terms "will" and "testament." Both describe a ...

A Last Will & Testament in Illinois

To make a last will and testament in Illinois, you must be at least 18 years of age or be emancipated from your parents ...

How to Make a Will Without a Lawyer

A lawyer is helpful in the will creation process because you can be confident that your will has been drafted according ...

Browse by category