Will (law), in law, disposition by an individual of his or her property, intended to take effect after death. A disposition of real property by will is termed a devise; a disposition of personal property by will is termed a bequest. The person making a will, called the testator, must have testamentary capacity, that is, must be of full age and sound mind and must act without undue influence by others.
By statute in the U.S. and in England, a will is required to be in writing, whether it disposes of real or personal property; a soldier or sailor in combat, however, may make a will orally. In a number of jurisdictions in the U.S., an oral will is also valid when made by a testator during sickness that terminates in death, but it must be made at a point when, because of the apparent imminence of death, neither time nor opportunity exists to make a written will. The law usually provides that the contents of an oral will must be reduced to writing within six days after it was declared in the presence of the statutory number of witnesses, usually three. Such oral wills are termed nuncupative wills and may dispose only of personal property. A written will that is entirely in the handwriting of the testator is termed a holographic will and may dispose of real or personal property, or both. The statutes of some states in the U.S. recognize such wills as valid without formal execution or attestation, if wholly written, dated, and signed by the testator's own hand. A holographic will is valid only if it complies literally with the controlling statute.