I am confused between : Will, legacy, Commandment, Precept, Behest, Testament and more.

Which word refer to the declaration or the message by which a person ask the world to do certain things after his death, like his recommendations and the distribution of his property..etc.

  • 'Recommendations' and 'distribution of property' are different, which is which different words are used. I think you mean Will, for which (in this sense) testament is an obsolete synonym. If you can edit the question to be more precise, it can be answered properly. Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 14:51
  • Why obsolete? I hear "My will and testament" often, not just in Shelock Holmes or such
    – mplungjan
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 14:54
  • 1
    @mplungjan it's arguably obsolete on its own, much as wrack in the sense of ruin is obsolete but still found in the tautologous wrack and ruin.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 14:58
  • You might be confusing behest with bequest.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 14:58
  • @tchrist they might not. The will can be called a behest, as it behests that the bequest be given.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 14:59

4 Answers 4


The most common is almost certainly will. The others are all certainly used, and the doubled-up "will and testament" is quite common particularly in the wording of wills themselves (such doubling up is particularly common in matters of law, as per "aid and abet", "cease and desist", "null and void" an so on). While commonly used in the document itself, and formal legal documents relating to one, it's nowhere near as common as plain will in other contexts, including when talking with lawyers.

Of those you list, legacy is incorrect, as it refers to the goods and funds bequeathed. As tchrist suggests in the comments it's possible that you meant bequest when you said behest in which case it would have been an interesting reverse mistake; bequest is also what is given (and the verb to describe doing so) while behest is the command that it be done and so could be used as another name for a will, albeit a rare one.


Sometimes I've heard terms last requests, final requests, or final wishes used. These aren't necessarily legally binding, like a will, but they are a way to let wishes be passed along to family members.

Sometimes you'll hear about someone getting their "affairs" in order. In this context, "affairs" would cover a will, along with final wishes, and perhaps even arrangement for a particular a burial plot, an epitaph for a tombstone, indications of whether or not the deceased would prefer to be cremated, etc.

A number of funeral homes use terms like "final requests" or "final wishes" in their websites, as do other funeral planning guides, such as this one.

  • Now i can understand clearly, that the Will is dedicated for legal wishes only. Thanks for your contribution. Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 20:00

I would call it The father’s will (and testament) - the latter part seems not used much anymore

Testament - from Oxford dictionary

  1. a person’s will, especially the part relating to personal property: father’s will and testament
  2. something that serves as a sign or evidence of a specified fact, event, or quality: growing attendance figures are a testament to the event’s popularity
  3. (in biblical use) a covenant or dispensation. (Testament) a division of the Bible. See also Old Testament, New Testament. (Testament) a copy of the New Testament: he was able to buy a Testament


Middle English: from Latin testamentum 'a will' (from testari 'testify'), in Christian Latin also translating Greek diathēkē 'covenant'

Testament free dictionary

3. Law A written document providing for the disposition of a person's property after death; a will.

Will from free dictionary

a. A legal declaration of how a person wishes his or her possessions to be disposed of after death.
b. A legally executed document containing this declaration.


@Ala You ask, in your subsequent comment: 'Let's say a father wrote a letter to his sons to be opened after his death, Asking them to take care of their disabled sister'.

There are a host of questions which arise. Is the disabled sister 'legally competent'. e.g. Is she mentally or physically disabled? If the former the usual thing would be for the father to leave money in trust for her and to appoint the sons as trustees.

I am not sure what happens if someone refuses to act as a trustee. Perhaps the court of probate can appoint a replacement. Normally before writing a will in this way one asks the proposed trustees if they would be willing to act.

No one has the power to require another person by way of a will to do something e.g.'look after your sister'.

  • Thanks for your answer, That example was just to show that the word I am looking for is not necessarily means the distribution of his property and money at death. Another example.. Say, a father asking to be buried in the village cemetery. Is that a Will? Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 18:45
  • @Ala As I am not a qualified solicitor, if you need specific advice on the making of a will I think you need to consult an appropriate legal professional in your own country. However I do understand that in the UK there can only be one will (including codicils thereto) at the time of a person's death. And it is not unusual to include the person's wishes as to burial/cremation arrangements.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 19:23
  • The technical term for such things as burial requests and "look after your sister" is a Letter of Wishes, and it has no legal force, though obviously considerable moral force. I don't believe this is used by anyone but lawyers; 'The Will' is probably what most people would say, particularly since such a Letter is often attached to the actual will. Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 19:00

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