Wills

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Wills or testaments are legal declarations by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death.

Sourced[edit]

  • Let's choose executors and talk of wills:
    And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
    Save our deposed bodies to the ground?

The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)[edit]

Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 245-248.
  • There is no instance where men are so easily imposed upon, as at the time of their dying under the pretence of charity.
  • Of all the cases which come before the Court for its decision, none can be more embarrassing and more unsatisfactory than those which arise upon the construction of wills. The Court has no real guide to enable it to arrive at a conclusion. The only things which can be called guides are certain rules which the Court has laid down, and which may be extracted from the decisions. Beyond that, the decisions are not of the slightest use. Except by adherence to those rules, there is nothing but what may, not irreverently, be called guessing as to what the words of the document can be held to mean.
    • Sir James Bacon, V.-C, In re Ingle's Trusts (1871), L. R. 11 Eq. Ca. 586.
  • In the state of languor in which dying persons generally are, their assent could be easily got to statements which they never intended to make, if they were but ingeniously person with statements which were interwoven by an artful actually true.
    • R. v. Fitzgerald, Ir. Cir. R. 168, 169.
  • This seems to me to be one of those cases in which the Court is bound to arrive at a conclusion without having any satisfactory means of arriving at it. The only guide I have is this. I am entitled to sit in the testator's chair as he wrote his own will.
    • Kekewich, J., Horlock v. Wiggins (1888), L. R. 39 C. D. 143.
  • A will is often executed suddenly in a last sickness, and sometimes in the article of death . . . consequently the time of the execution is the critical moment which requires guard and protection.
    • Lord Camden, Doe d. Hindson v. Hersey, 4 Burn's Ecc. L. 27 ; 1 Jarman on Wills, 70.
  • As lawyers we must construe the will like any other document.
    • Cotton, L.J., Ralph v. Carrick (1877), L. R. 5 Ch. 984.
  • The law has ever been watchful and jealous of wills made under religious influences, and especially so when those influences connect themselves with any individual who is the object of the testator's bounty.
    • Sir J. P. Wilde, Smith v. Tebbitt (1867), L. R. 1 Pr. & D. 437.
  • I regret exceedingly that, not only ordinary laymen, but, as it seems to me, professional men, do not understand the great difficulty there is in drawing wills, and do not bestow a little more care and pains in endeavouring to draw them in such a way as that the numerous questions which often arise on them should be avoided. I regret to say that these questions often throw a great deal of expense on parties interested under the wills, and are the cause of great heartburnings and most bitter animosities.
    • Pearson, J., In re Wait; Workman v. Petgrave (1885), L. R. 30 C. D. 622.
  • I quite admit that on the question of the construction of wills relating to real property the cases have always had greater attention given to them than in the case of personalty, because land in England passes by title, and it has always been the habit of the lawyers and Judges to look with greater strictness to the reported cases where it is a question of land than where it is a question of personalty.
    • Chitty, J., In re Bright-Smith; Bright-Smith v. Bright-Smith (1886), L. R. 31 CD. 318.
  • Speaking for myself, I do not look upon wills as Chinese puzzles; they no doubt do present great difficulties, but I do not feel myself the serious difficulty which other learned Judges have.
    • Chitty, J., In re Roper's Estate (1889), L. J. Rep. (N. S.) 58 C. D. 442.
  • The Court is at liberty to transpose and mould clauses and words in a will so as to make the whole take effect.
    • Buller, J., Doe v. Wilkinson (1788), 2 T. R. 223.
  • If we find from a will, as we do here, that a testator has used a word in a particular sense, we must give it that meaning wherever it occurs in the will. It is the same thing as if a foreign word were used—a case of which I have known. In such a case we have to get at the meaning of the word in English from an ordinary dictionary, and then whenever it occurs give it that English meaning. Of course, the dictionary must be clear; and if we cannot make out what the testator meant, then we have not got the dictionary.
    • Sir F. H. Jeune, Re Birks; In re Kenyon v. Birks (1899), L. R. 1 C. D., C. A. 419, 420.
  • No previous will can be treated properly as a precedent for another which is expressed in different language, and no decision on the precise words of a former will can as a general rule be of the least service in guiding the Court as to the construction of other words. Unless you can get a principle from a case which is applicable generally to other cases, the precedent is of little use.
    • Rigby, L.J., In re Macduff (1896), L. R. 2 Ch. D. [1896], p. 469.
  • Let a will be ever so fair, a slip in form is fatal: which is a certain mischief. But if a will be fraudulent, though it is allowed to be formal, it may be set aside upon evidence and circumstances.
  • My distinction is, that in incorrect wills the Court may take liberties, but that if the words are correct they have no power to make any alteration.
    • Buller, J., Doe et dem. Dacre v. Dacre (1798), 2 Bos. & Pull. 260.
  • Every will stands on its own bottom and is various as anything whatsoever, and therefore it is hard to cite a case that can quadrate. I have mean thoughts of my own opinion. I may say in this case, diffieilius est invenire quam vincere, as Caesar said when he and his army ran about the Alps to find out a way.
    • Treby, C.J., Monnington v. Davis (1695), Fortescue, 227.
  • Men should not sin in their graves.
    • Sir John Strange, Thomas v. Britnell (1751), 2 Ves. 314; observation upon the construction of a will.
  • I do not intend to encumber myself with cases. Decisions upon other words something like those in question, in other wills, where the whole context of those other wills must be gone into, can afford very little assistance.
    • Eyre, C.J., Doe et dem. Dacre v. Dacre (1798), 2 Bos. &. Pull., 258.
  • I do not see why, if we can tell what a man intends, and can give effect to his intention as expressed, we should be driven out of it by other cases or decisions in other cases. I always protest against anything of the sort.
  • We must find out the meaning of the testator as well as we can.
    • Powell, J., Monnington v. Davis (1695), Fortescue, 226.
  • Technical rules are not to be relied upon in explaining the intention of testators: and yet cases of intention are much embarrassed by authorities.
    • Eyre, C.J., Burnsall v. Davy (1798), 2 Bos. & Pull. 220.
  • Courts of justice ought to carry into effect the intentions of testators as far as they can consistently with the rules of law.
    • Lord Langdale, M.R., Biederman v. Seymour (1841), 3 Beav. 371.
  • It is from the words, and from the context, not from the punctuation, that the sense must be collected.
    • Sir Wm. Grant, M.R., Sanford v. Raikes (1816), 1 Mer. 651; per Lord Westbury, Gordon v. Gordon (1871), L. R. 5 H. L. 276.
  • The intention of the testator is the polar star by which we must be guided.
    • Buller, J., Smith v. Coffin (1795), 2 Hen. Bl. 444; id. Tindal, L.C.J., Wilce v. Wilce (1831), 5 M. & P. 694.
  • The Court is to pronounce according to the apparent intent of the testator, but that intent must be found in the words of the will, and is not to be collected by conjecture dehors the will.
    • Buller, J., Doe et dem. Dacre v. Dacre (1798), 2 Bos. & Pull 259.

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