10 key terms to understand in Will writing

Man looking for his sealed Will after verify writing checklist
Last Updated on March 8, 2023 by Carlos Lopez


When writing a will , there are a few key terms that you need to be familiar with. The first one is “testator.” This is the person making the will, and it can be either an individual or a couple.


A beneficiary is a person or organization who will receive the assets of the estate after your passing. There are two types of beneficiaries: primary and contingent.

The primary beneficiary is the person who you want to receive the assets of the estate.

If the primary beneficiary is no longer living, the contingent beneficiary will then receive the assets. The contingent beneficiary is usually a relative or friend of the primary beneficiary.


The person you choose to carry out your will. This person will be responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out, and may have to go to court to do so if someone challenges the will.

You can name anyone you like as executor, but it’s a good idea to choose someone you trust implicitly.


When drafting a will, it’s important to understand the concept of guardianship. Guardians are responsible for raising minor children should one or both parents pass away.

This is a big responsibility, and so it’s important to pick someone who can provide a loving and supportive home environment for your children.

Before choosing guardianship, make sure the people you select can financially support your children and ensure their well-being.

When selecting guardianship, you should also consider legal rights and obligations, and make sure all parties are in agreement with the terms that have been set out in the will.

It’s also essential to discuss any potential guardians with your children if they are old enough to understand the concept. It’s important for them to feel comfortable with the person you have chosen to look after them in this time of need.


When it comes to will writing, you’ll come across the term “trust” a lot. A trust is an agreement between the person who created it (the “grantor”) and another person or organization (the “trustee”) for holding and managing assets for the benefit of a third party (the “beneficiary”).

In other words, a trust is like an investment account or bank account that’s set up specifically for someone else.

The trustee takes care of managing the assets, like making sure investments are made in accordance with the trust’s guidelines. Meanwhile, the beneficiary gets to use the assets according to what’s been put in place in the trust.

Trusts can be used for many different purposes: from making sure inheritance goes to children once they reach a certain age, to providing for a special needs beneficiary.

They can even be used as part of an estate plan to manage property outside of probate proceedings.

Power of attorney

The term power of attorney is often used when making a will. It refers to an individual who is given the legal authority to make decisions for you in the event that you become mentally incapacitated and/or are unable to make decisions on your own.

A power of attorney can be modified and revoked at any time, but should be made with someone that you completely trust.

When deciding who should serve as your power of attorney, it’s important to consider the power they’re being granted, as they will be the one to make decisions relating to your finances, healthcare and other important matters.

You should also discuss their responsibilities with them carefully and consider their potential conflicts of interest. A good candidate should understand the gravity of their role and have a strong moral compass.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose a person who will faithfully carry out your wishes even when you’re no longer able to do so yourself.


When talking about wills, you’ll definitely hear the term “probate” thrown around a bit. Probate is the process of proving that a will is valid and binding. In some countries, a will must be admitted to probate before it can become effective.

The probate process involves filing the will with the proper court and having it approved by a judge. The will must be authenticated and all interested parties must be notified that it is being filed.

In certain cases, such as if there are multiple heirs to the estate or if there are legal challenges to the document, then a probate attorney may need to be hired to ensure everything is handled correctly.

The whole process can take months or even years in some cases, so it’s important to make sure everything is drafted properly in order for it to make it through this step without any hiccups.


When writing a will, knowing the meaning of key terms can help you understand what you are writing and make sure that your intentions are properly spelled out.

One such term to be aware of is “revoke”. Revoking a will means that it is no longer valid. This can happen if you create a new will or make certain changes to an existing one.

When revoking a will, it’s important to destroy all physical copies of the document so there is no confusion about which version is the most up-to-date.

Make sure to note in your new will that you have revoked any previous versions, and provide specific details about how that action was taken.

Additionally, be sure to safely store your new will so any changes you make can easily be detected in the future. That way, any updates or modifications you make while writing your will be securely documented and preserved over time.


You may have heard of a codicil, which is an amendment to a previously written will. This commonly happens when someone wants to add, modify or remove an item or provision within an existing will.

A codicil must be made with the same formality as writing a will, and it must also conform to all applicable laws in the applicable jurisdiction.

It’s important to note that making a codicil does not cancel the previously written will; however, it does amend any items that are listed in it.

It’s also important to remember that some changes require more than just a codicil–they may require a completely new will.

For example, if you want to make drastic changes, such as changing the executor or changing who your beneficiaries are, you’ll need to create a completely new legal document instead of simply adding a codicil.


One of the terms commonly used in will writing that you should know is “intestate.” If you die without a will, then you are said to be “intestate,” which means that the laws of your state or country determine how your estate (assets) will be distributed.

In other words, if you die without a will, you don’t get to decide who gets what—instead, the government decides for you based on these laws. It’s important to note that intestacy can also apply when not all assets are covered in a will.

As such, it is essential that you have a valid will and update it regularly so that your assets are distributed in the way that you want them to be. It’s also important to note that intestacy laws can vary based on state or country, so make sure to educate yourself on these before making any decisions.

Read these faqs before you leave this article.

Do I need an attorney to draft a will?

Although it is not necessary to work with a lawyer to draft your will, doing so is advised to make sure the document is binding and correctly expresses your intentions.

After I’ve written my will, can I make changes?

You can amend your will by writing a codicil or by drafting a new one, yes. As your circumstances change, such as when a kid is born or your marital status changes, it is crucial to amend your will.

What occurs if I pass away without a will?

Without a will, your possessions will be dispersed in accordance with state rules, possibly disregarding your intentions. It is crucial to have a will in place to ensure that your possessions are transferred according to your intentions.

Who is eligible to be a will’s beneficiary?

In a will, anyone can be listed as a beneficiary, including people, charities, and businesses.

Specialized Will and Estate Planning Attorney in Washington, DC.

Protect your legacy and your loved ones with a legally binding will. Write to Lopez Law Firm today to speak with an experienced will attorney and start planning for the future.

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