Vanderbilt Law Review


William J. Bowe

First Page



Formalities. The statutory formalities required for the execution of wills are too frequently brushed aside as trivia. The lawyer, supervising the ceremony of execution, and the testator, as the chief actor, may have feelings of embarrassed self-consciousness in complying with the required minutiae. But the importance of staging a routine ceremony, however silly it may seem at the moment, cannot be overestimated. Law students ought to be told and practitioners reminded to adopt the practice, once the testator and witnesses are assembled, of closing the door, drawing the shades, cutting off the telephone and advising all present that no one may leave the room for the next five minutes. Then explain that they are about to participate in a brief one-act play and that each is to observe what the others do. The testator should sign the document. Then ask him, "What is this document?" Make him answer, "My will." Next question: "Is that your signature?" Wait for his answer. "Do you wish these persons to act as witnesses?" And so forth. The lawyer who always follows this routine may so testify years later, when he has forgotten all about the execution of the particular will in question.'