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.

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.

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.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

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. Start My Estate Plan
Laws About Inheritance at a Father's Death in Georgia
 

References

Related articles

What Is Meant by Share and Share-Alike in a Will?

Some legal terms carry their own peculiar definition but others mean exactly what they seem to mean. The expression share and share alike means the same thing in a will that it does on the playground: everyone who is included in the group at the time of distribution gets an equal share of the object or assets in question.

How to Execute a Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament is a document used to distribute the property after the property owner dies. The person who creates the will, known as the testator, must not only clearly state his intended distribution of property, he must also execute the will in legally valid form. Although exact procedures vary from state to state, common features are found in every state. Check the law of your state for exact procedures and have an attorney look over your will before you sign it.

What Does Direct Heir Mean?

In common usage, an heir is a person who is next-in-line to receive something of value, whether it’s a title, office or the throne of the kingdom. The term also describes someone legally eligible to receive tangible legacy in the form of money or land from a deceased ancestor, such as an inheritance. The meaning of direct heir, however, is more narrowly defined and is different from other kinds of heirs.

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

Related articles

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. ...

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 ...

What Is the Meaning of Last Will & Testament?

A last will and testament is a legal document that conveys the final wishes of a decedent for the administration and ...

Are Stepchildren Allowed to Contest a Will in South Carolina?

If someone leaves a valid will when he dies, the terms of that will generally control how his property will be ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED