Wills and Testament Law

What Are Wills and Testaments?

A Will, or Testament, sometimes referred to as a Last Will and Testament, is a legal document declaring a decedent's intentions for who should manage his or her estate after death, and to whom he or she wishes various assets to be given.


Any person over the age of majority and of "sound mind" (having the appropriate mental capacity to understand what they are doing) can prepare a will with or without an attorney. The person writing the will, also known as the "testator," must clearly identify that he or she is the maker of the will and that it is his or her intention to actually create a will (usually accomplished by inclusion of the words "last will and testament" on the face of the document. If any previous wills have ever been created, the testator must expressly revoke them as well as any codicils (amendments to a will). Otherwise, the subsequent will only revokes the prior wills and codicils to the extent that they are inconsistent. The will must be signed and dated by the testator, and most jurisdictions also require the signatures of two disinterested witnesses and sometimes a notary.

Prohibited Provisions

A will cannot require an heir to commit an illegal, immoral, or other act against public policy as a condition of receiving an inheritance. Similarly, some states have laws against omitting certain beneficiaries from an estate, such as a surviving spouse. Children can be disinherited by a parent's will, except in Louisiana.

More Information

For more information about wills and and testaments, please review the materials provided below. Additionally, you can find an attorney who focuses their practice on Trusts and Estates law by visiting our Law Firms page and searching by your location.

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