A testator is a person who has written and executed a last will and testament. The term “testator” applies to both men and women. This individual dictates, through the will, how their assets and property should be distributed after their death. The will can also include other provisions, such as naming guardians for minor children.
If a person dies without having created a will, they are said to have died “intestate,” and the distribution of their assets will be determined by the laws of the jurisdiction in which they resided.
In summary, a testator is someone who makes a will, and the will reflects their intentions and wishes for the distribution of their assets after their death.
Example of a Testator
Let’s explore this with a hypothetical scenario:
Robert is a 68-year-old retired teacher. He has two adult children, Mark and Lisa, and four grandchildren. Over the years, he has accumulated assets including a house, a vacation cabin by the lake, a collection of antique books, and some savings.
Robert as a Testator:
Deciding it’s time to put his affairs in order, Robert consults an attorney to draft a last will and testament. As the person creating the will, Robert becomes the “testator.”
In his will:
- Property Distribution: Robert bequeaths the family home to his son, Mark, and the vacation cabin to his daughter, Lisa. He reasons that Mark, being the elder and having a larger family, would benefit from the bigger family home, while Lisa, an avid nature lover, would cherish the cabin by the lake.
- Antique Books: Robert leaves his collection of antique books to his local library, as he had always been an advocate for education and wishes to give back to his community.
- Savings: He divides his savings equally between his four grandchildren, intending to provide them a head start in their adult lives, perhaps for college expenses or down payments on their first homes.
- Executor: Robert appoints his niece, Clara, as the executor of the will. Clara’s role will be to ensure that Robert’s wishes, as outlined in the will, are carried out after his passing.
- Guardianship: While Robert’s children are adults, he mentions in the will that, had they been minors, he would have nominated his sister, Anne, as their guardian.
Years later, when Robert passes away, his status as a testator means that he has left clear directives on how his assets are to be distributed. His will, the legal document that lays out these directives, provides guidance to his family, ensuring that his wishes are respected and reducing potential conflicts over his estate. Clara, as the named executor, oversees the distribution of assets to Mark, Lisa, the grandchildren, and the donation to the library, all in accordance with Robert’s wishes.