Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wikipedia gets it wrong, again

Today's misbegotten article is [[Will (law)]]. This article repeats the frequently repeated, but false, claim that a "testament" only devises personal property. This is part of a common, but mistaken, belief that in the phrase "will and testament", the two parts must necessarily mean different things, and so a "will" devises realty and a "testament" personalty. This interpretation, while vaguely reasonable, is false. The reason why a "will and testament" is called that has to do with the history of England, and specifically of French as the language of law in England. "Will" is the Anglo-Saxon term for a document specifying the intent of the testator, while "Testament" is the French/Latin term for the same thing. The use of both words is to ensure that the document is recognized as a testamentary document whether interpreted by a common-law court (using English) or a crown court (using French). The same pattern is found in "cease and desist".

I could probably find a citation for the claims above (it was in my Wills and Trusts text from when I was in law school), but not until after we've moved. Things are too disorderly around here right now for me to find an old textbook.

Oh, and while we're at it, [[Codicil (will)]] has an ad for some website at the bottom. Does anybody ever check this stuff?