Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Will

Quick Summary of Will

A document giving directions as to the allocation and disposal of a person’s property after death.

What is the dictionary definition of Will?

Dictionary Definition

A will is the legal document which declares a person’s “last wishes” after their death. A will can name an executor, name a guardian for children and property, decide how debts and taxes will be paid, provide for pet care and serve as a backup plan to a living trust.

n. a written document which leaves the estate of the person who signed the will to named persons or entities (beneficiaries, legatees, divisees) including portions or percentages of the estate, specific gifts, creation of trusts for management and future distribution of all or a portion of the estate (a testamentary trust). A will usually names an executor (and possibly substitute executors) to manage the estate, states the authority and obligations of the executor in the management and distribution of the estate, sometimes gives funeral and/or burial instructions, nominates guardians of minor children and spells out other terms. To be valid the will must be signed by the person who made it (testator), be dated (but an incorrect date will not invalidate the will) and witnessed by two people (except in Vermont which requires three). In some states, the witnesses must be disinterested, or in some states, a gift to a witness is void, but the will is valid. A will totally in the handwriting of the testator, signed and dated (a “holographic will”) but without witnesses, is valid in many, but not all, states. If the will (also called a Last Will and Testament) is still in force at the time of the death of the testator (will writer), and there is a substantial estate and/or real estate, then the will must be probated (approved by the court, managed and distributed by the executor under court supervision). If there is no executor named or the executor is dead or unable or unwilling to serve, an administrator (“with will annexed”) will be appointed by the court. A written amendment or addition to a will is called a “codicil” and must be signed, dated and witnessed just as is a will, and must refer to the original will it amends. If there is no estate, including the situation in which the assets have all been placed in a trust, then the will need not be probated.

Full Definition of Will

A document giving directions as to the allocation and disposal of a person’s property after death.

It has no effect until the testator’s death and may be altered as many times as the person wishes.

To be binding, the Will must be executed in accordance with statutory formalities. It must be in writing, signed by the testator or at the testator’s direction and in the testator’s presence.

It must appear that the signature was intended to give effect to the will (typically the will is signed at the end, close to the last words dealing with the property).

The will must be witnessed by two persons, who must also sign the will. However, the witnesses must not be beneficiaries.

To create a valid will you must know what property you have and what it means to leave it to someone after your death (which means you must have a sound mind), you must name beneficiaries for your property, you must sign the document and you should have at least two other witnesses sign the document. Individuals can create their own wills or they can hire a lawyer to write one for them. Keep in mind the language on the will should be clear, accurate and not ambiguous.

Seek legal help if you want to disinherit your spouse or child, you think someone will challenge your will, you want to control how your property is used after your death or you have concerns about estate taxes.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Will. PayrollHeaven.com. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. October 25, 2021 https://payrollheaven.com/define/will/.
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Will. PayrollHeaven.com. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. https://payrollheaven.com/define/will/ (accessed: October 25, 2021).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Will. PayrollHeaven.com. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from PayrollHeaven.com website: https://payrollheaven.com/define/will/

Definition Sources

Definitions for Will are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 27th April, 2020 | 48 Views.