Testamentary Formalities in Historical and Comparative Perspective

Kenneth Reid, Marius J. de WaalReinhard Zimmermann, Marius J. de Waal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Certain patterns emerge from the preceding chapters. Only three types of will are at all common. Two are private: the holograph will and the witnessed will. The third, the notarial will, is public. And whereas in common law jurisdictions only the witnessed will is usually recognized, in the civil law world there is often a choice between notarial wills and one of the private wills, usually the holograph will. In addition to these ‘ordinary’ wills, many systems provide for one or more ‘special’ wills such as emergency wills or wills made on board a ship or aircraft. This chapter considers the history of each will type, discusses the current state of the law, and traces the gradual retreat from formalities and from formalism itself. A final section evaluates each will type against a set of seven ‘virtues’ (cautionary, protective, facilitative, cheapness, secrecy, discoverability, and evidentiary), and offers some more general conclusions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComparative Succession Law
EditorsKenneth G. C. Reid, Marius J. de Waal, Reinhard Zimmermann
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages39
Volume1: Testamentary Formalities
ISBN (Print)9780199696802
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • holograph will
  • witnessed will
  • notorial will
  • special will
  • common law
  • civil law
  • formalities
  • formalism


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