Legal Definition and Related Resources of Testament

Meaning of Testament

whereas the word will is technically appropriate in relation to land, the word testament is a will of personal property . Re Duffy’s estate , 228 Iowa 426, 292 N. W. 165. This distinction is not always observed when the terms are used interchangeably. See Occidental Life Ins. Co. v Powers, 192 Wash. 475, 74 P.2d27.

Testament Alternative Definition

In civil law. The appointment of an executor or testamentary heir, according to the formalities prescribed by law. Domat, liv. 1, tit. 1, § 1. At first there were only two sorts of testaments among the Romans,that called calatis comitiis, and another called in proeinctu. In the course of time, these two sorts of testament having become obsolete, a third form was introduced, called per aes et libram, which was a fictitious sale of the inheritance to the heir apparent. The inconveniences which were experienced from these fictitious sales again changed the form of testaments, and the praetor introduced another, which required the seal of seven witnesses. The emperors having increased the, solemnity of these testaments, they were called “written” or “solemn” testaments, to distinguish them from “nuncupative” testaments, which could be made without writing. Afterwards military testaments were introduced in favor of soldiers actually engaged in military service.
(1) A testament calatis comitiis, or made in the comitia, that is, the assembly of the Roman people, was an ancient manner of making wills, used in times of peace among the Romans. The comitia met twice a year for this purpose. Those who wished to make such testaments caused to be convoked the assembly of the people by these words, calatis comitiis. None could make such wills that were not entitled to be at the assemblies of the people. This form of testament was repealed by the law of the Twelve Tables.
(2) A civil testament is one made according to all the forms prescribed by law, in contradistinction to a military testament, in making which some of the forms may be dispensed with. Civil testaments are more ancient than military ones ; the former were in use during the time of Romulus, the latter were introduced during the time of Coriolanus. See Hist, de la Jur. Rom. de M. Terrason, p. 119.
(3) A common testament is one which is made jointly by several persons. Such testaments are forbidden in Louisiana (Civ. Code La. art. 1565), and by the laws of France (Civ. Code 968), in the same words, namely:* “A testament cannot be made by the same act, by two or more persons, either for the benefit of a third person, or under the title of a reciprocal or mutual disposition.”
(4) A testament ab irato is one made in a gust of passion or hatred against the presumptive heir, rather than from a desire to benefit the devisee. When the facts of unreasonable anger are proved, the will is annulled as unjust, and as not having been freely made. See “Ab Irato.”
(5) A mystic testament (called a “solemn testament,” because it requires more formality than a nuncupative testament) is a form of making a will which consists principally in enclosing it in an envelope and sealing it in the presence of witnesses. This kind of testament is used in Louisiana. The following are the provisions of the Civil Code of that state on the subject, namely: The mystic or secret testament, otherwise called the “close testament,” is made in the following manner: The testator must sign his dispositions, whether he has written them himself, or has caused them to be vrritten by another person. The paper containing these dispositions, or the paper serving as their envelope, must be closed and sealed. The testator shall present it thus closed and sealed to the notary and to seven witnesses, or he shall cause it be closed and sealed in their presence; then he shall declare to the notary, in the presence of the witnesses, that that paper contains his testament written by himself, or by another by his direction, and signed by him, the testator. The notary shall then draw up the act of superscription, which shall be written on that paper, or on the sheet that serves as its envelope, and that act shall be signed by the testator and by the notary and the witnesses. 5 Mart. (La.) 182. All that is above prescribed shall be done without interruption or turning aside to other acts; and in case the testator, by reason of any hindrance that has happened since the signing of thetestament, cannot sign the act of superscription, mention shall be made of the declaration made by him thereof, without its being necessary in that case to increase the number of witnesses. Those who know not how or are not able to write, and those who know not how or are not able to sign their names, cannot make dispositions in the form of the mystic will. If any one of the witnesses to the act of superscription knows not how to sign, express mention shall be made thereof. In all cases the act must be sig:ned by at least two witnesses. Civ. Code La. arts. 1577-1580.
(6) A nuncupative testament was one made verbally. In the presence of seven witnesses. It was not necessary that it should have been in writing; the proof of it was by parol evidence. See “Nuncupative Will.” In Louisiana, testaments, whether nuncupative or mystic, must be drawn up in writing, either by the testator himself, or by some other person under his dictation. The custom of making verbal statements, that is to say, resulting from the mere deposition of witnesses who were present when the testator made known to them his will, without his having committed it or caused it to be committed to writing, is abrogated. Nuncupative testaments may be made by public act, or by act under private signature. Civ. Code La. arts. 1568-1570.
(7) An olographic testament is one which is written wholly by the testator himself. In order to be valid, it must be entirely written, dated, and signed by the hand of the testator. It is subject to no other form. See Civ. Code La. art. 1581. See “Will.”

Synonyms of Testament


  • agreement
  • binding agreement
  • contract
  • covenant
  • engagement
  • expression of conviction
  • formal declaration
  • legal will
  • promise
  • solemn agreement
  • solemn promise
  • testamentary declaration
  • testamentary decree
  • testamentum
  • will
  • writing
  • Associated Concepts: codicil
  • last will and testament
  • testamentary capacity
  • testamentary devise
  • testamentary trustforeign phrases: Omne testamentum morte consummatum est
  • Every will or testament is consummated by death

Related Entries of Testament in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

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Testament in Historical Law

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Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms

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Related Legal Terms

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Mentioned in these terms

Guardian, Testator.


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Concept of Testament in the context of Real Property

A short definition of Testament: Commonly synonymous with “will”, but technically only the disposition of personal property. See also: Will.

Concept of Testament in the context of Real Property

A short definition of Testament: Commonly synonymous with “will”, but technically only the disposition of personal property. See also: Will.



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