The evolution of creating a will.
By Melissa Broad, Contributing Writer.
The practice of creating a will dates back to Ancient Greek times and varied across different places. Some states allowed common men to dispose of their estate while others deprived them of that privilege. Usually when signing a will several witnesses were required to be present and they needed to put seals on the will for confirmation, only then was the will placed in the hands of the trustee.
The practice of creating a will in Ancient Rome differed from the modern will in many aspects. The legator's will could come into effect during his lifetime and it was made orally rather than written and signed. This was done under the assumption that everyone knew the intentions of the legator. The legator would have to declare his will in the presence of seven witnesses and once the will is declare it can not be changed. This method of creating a will was later abolished as it became difficult to trust the will of the deceased solely based of the witnesses' memories. Subsequently all wills were order to be written rather than verbally declared.
For centuries, one of the main requirements for a will to be valid, whether it was written by hand, drafted by a lawyer or typed out on a computer, was that it had been signed in front of witnesses. In Christian tradition, Eusebius and others have related Noah's testament, made in writing, and witnessed under his seal, by which he disposed of the whole world. Additionally, wills are mentioned in the Old Testament where Jacob bestowed to his son Joseph, a portion of his inheritance, which was much more than he left for his other sons.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, "The effect of Christianity upon the will was very marked. For instance, the duty of bequeathing to the Church was inculcated as early as Constantine, and heretics and monks were placed under a disability to make a will or take gifts left by will. A will was often deposited in a church. The Canon law follows the Roman law with a still greater leaning to the advantage of the Church".
Creating a will has become more modern with the introduction of the e-signature which allows people to complete the entire process of creating a will or trust online without a lawyer present. The catalyst behind this change is the Uniform Law Commission, a nonprofit organization that proposes laws for states to adopt.
According to an article published by Willing, in order to make a valid will, all American states require a person to comply with a set of guidelines that trace back to a pair of statutes enacted by Parliament centuries. These formalities generally require a will to be in written and signed by the testator and witnessed by at least two people.