Updated 03 December 2020
Itâs Write A Will Week from today until Sunday, so to kick things off we have some fascinating facts about the mysterious yet vital world of the will and testament. Some are useful, some are amusing and some are frankly bizarre. You wonât look at life (or death) in the same way again.
Do you have an up-to-date will? If you do, congratulations â youâre in the sensible minority. But whether your own will is signed and sealed or not, we bet you didnât know some of these extraordinary will-related facts.
Why is it âwill and testamentâ?
Donât those words mean the same? Yes, they do. One is Old English, and the other is the archaic French that used to be used in English courts. Both languages were used together to make things doubly clear â a convention that also gave us âpeace and quietâ and âbreaking and enteringâ.
The shortest will
The shortest will in history was made by Karl Tausch of Germany in 1967. He wrote simply âAll to wifeâ. Being unambiguous, it was indeed legal.
Careless words cost a fortune
By contrast, using ambiguous words (easy to do by accident) can turn a will into a curse. How about: âI leave everything to my husband and on his death it is to be shared between my daughters.â Whatâs wrong with that, a layperson might ask? But the legal interpretation of those words would cut the husband out of the will altogether â he would merely be holding the âeverythingâ in trust for the daughters, unable to spend any of it, because the will says that âeverythingâ is to be shared. Motto: get a solicitor!
The notion of an executor dates back to superstitious Romans
If an Ancient Roman died (even a young Ancient Roman) it caused a bit of a kerfufflus. Their tradition stated that his goods would become property of the gods, so to inherit those goods would risk enraging Jupiter or someone. To get around this (the Romans were great at loopholes) a Roman would symbolically âsellâ all his goods to a friend, called the Familae Emptor, who would then âletâ him keep them during his lifetime. When he died, the Familae Emptor would then distribute the estate according to the dead manâs wishes. Ingeniosus!
People donât seem to think about wills in Northern Ireland
Our latest research has identified the places in the UK where the fewest people have made a will, and for no readily apparent reason, Northern Ireland came out worst. An amazing 68 per cent of adults there are currently intestate (i.e. without a valid will). By contrast the most forward-thinking place in the UK is Plymouth â though even there, exactly half of the adults have no will.
More than one in 10 people say they wonât make a willâ¦ EVER
The same research uncovered an even more bizarre finding. A sizeable 13 per cent of people said they did not expect to make a will ever in their lives. This rose to 18 per cent among people in their 20s, though unsurprisingly it was only 8 per cent among people over 60. This suggests that the younger generation simply arenât yet informed about all the advantages of having a will â and the serious drawbacks of not having one.
Have you been wily with your will or are you willy-nilly? Do you know all the consequences of not having a will? Watch this space throughout Write A Will Week and find out.
To find out more about making a will, contact a solicitor through unbiased.co.uk. It will be worthwhile!