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  • Writer's pictureKyle Persaud

Your Guide to Different Types of Wills

Many people ask: What types of wills are there? What are the different types of wills?


There is really only one type of will. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a “will” is “A document by which a person directs his or her estate to be distributed upon death.” However, depending upon what a will does, lawyers may use different adjectives to describe a will. Also, there are some documents (such as “living wills” and “ethical wills”) that are not really wills at all, but people often use the term “will” to describe it.


Because there’s really only one type of will, the title of this post “Your Guide to Different Types of Wills” is somewhat misleading. I gave this post that title, because many people ask about different types of wills when they think about planning their estate. In this post, I will define the various terms used to describe a will.


Conditional Will. A conditional will depends on a certain condition in order to take effect. For example, a conditional will might say, “If I die before my child reaches age eighteen, I leave my property to a trustee to care for my child.”


Holographic Will. A will that is entirely in the handwriting of the testator. Unlike most wills, a holographic will does not need witnesses in order to be valid. For more information about holographic wills, read my earlier post here.


International Will. A will executed in conformity with an international treaty. A person may make an international will if he has property in multiple countries, or if he lives in one country but owns property in another. Because of the need for international wills, some countries have adopted treaties on recognition of wills made in other countries. Oklahoma had enacted the Uniform International Wills Act, which brings Oklahoma law into conformity with the Washington Convention of 1973.


Joint Will. A will executed by more than one person. Sometimes a husband and wife will execute a joint will together. While joint wills are legal, many lawyers advise their clients not to make them. To read more about joint wills, read my post, “Should Husband and Wife Have Separate Wills?


Lost Will. If someone executed a will but no one can find the original will, the lost will may be admitted to probate. If a copy of the will survives, a court may admit the copy to probate. If no original or copy of the will survives, then a court may admit the will to probate if two witnesses can testify as to the contents of the will.


Mutual Will (also called a Reciprocal Will). This is where two people (often a husband and wife) execute wills, where each person leaves his or her estate to the other person, whoever survives.  Some mutual wills are “joint wills” (see above); however, parties can execute two separate mutual wills.


Nuncupative Will (also called an Oral Will). A will made orally, without a writing. In Oklahoma, a nuncupative will is valid only if 1) the property disposed of is worth less than $1,000, 2) the oral will was made in the presence of two witnesses, and 3) the will was made by a soldier in military service, or a sailor on duty at sea, and made while the testator was in fear or peril of death.


Pour-over Will. A will that leaves property to a trust (that is, the property “pours over” into the trust).

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Documents that are often called “Wills” but are not really wills


Ethical Wills. An ethical will is a document where a person describes what moral principles and values he wants to pass onto his family. Ethical wills aren’t legally binding, but many people make them.


Living Wills. A living will is a document where a person describes what type of medical procedures he wants, or does not want, if he becomes incapacitated. For more in living wills, see my post, “How to Write a Living Will.”

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Would you like more advice on wills? Contact the Persaud Law Office


The Persaud Law Office has drafted wills for many clients. If you would like us to advise you or help you prepare your will, contact us today.

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