SA Plain English Will?

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Well-Known Member
9 July 2014

I was wondering if there was any problem with getting a plain English will, like a plain English contract.
My mother in law recently had a will drawn up by a solicitor and is sound like something from Dickens.
I questioned weather she should sign something she has no hope of understanding.

I'm getting a will soon and would like to have as close to a plain English one as practical.

Can you see any problems


PS here is an example of what I want to avoid.

"My executors shall have the power to apply the whole or any part of the income or capital of the vested or contingent share of any beneficiary towards the advancement maintenance education welfare or benefit in life of such beneficiary without seeing to the application thereof it being my intent that the welfare of such beneficiary shall be the paramount consideration of my executors."

winston wolf

Well-Known Member
21 April 2014
I think most of the fluff added to wills is just an attempt by the lawyer to.
  1. Cover there lack of real understanding of what they are doing.
  2. To make you feel that you are getting something special for you money.
  3. Or they are just using boiler plate form for the will.
I guess just shop around until you find a lawyer you like.

Tim W

LawConnect (LawTap) Verified
28 April 2014
Formality is about precision.
Sometimes, to achieve precision, complexity is also unavoidable.
Precision (in the case of wills) is about
  • clearly expressing the intent of the testator*
    in the language and structure of the document; and
  • ensuring that the intent of the testator is made clear
    without the Executor having to refer to (too much)
    extrinsic** material.
Neither is an excuse for using language that is antiquated,
just for its own sake.
That said,
  • sometimes, the form of words is prescribed
    (eg in an Act or a regulation), and we have no option
    but to use those words; and
  • there is often a long established word in the legal lexicon
    that says precisely what we intend.
    Such words can make more modern phrases,
    which often have more words in them, unnecessary.
    The word "testator" is a fine example.
Plain English legal writing is a skill in its own right.
Not every lawyer is equally good at it.
That said, I am a lot less cynical than Winston Wolf is above.

As Clive James once wrote, writing well is
"...essentially a matter of saying things in the right order."
And so it is.

In an ideal will, the intent of the testator is clear,
and the whole of it is expressed in, the body of the document.
If your mother is not happy, the I suggest that send it back for
re-drafting, at least once.

* A pedant for Plain English might suggest that I could have said
"...of the person making the will" instead of "testator".
But then I would be using six words, where there is one word
that does the job. Thus the pedant would have been mistaken.

** Material that is not in the body of the document.