Not Your Mother's Will: Gender, Language, and Wills

51 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2015

Date Written: July 1, 2015


“Boys will be boys, but girls must be young ladies” is an echoing patriarchal refrain from the past. Formal equality has not produced equality in all areas, as demonstrated by the continuing wage gap. Gender bias lingers and can be identified in language. This Article focuses on Wills, one of the oldest forms of legal documents, to explore the intersection of gender and language. With conceptual antecedents in pre-history, written Wills found in Ancient Egyptian tombs embody the core characteristics of modern Wills. The past endows the drafting and implementation of Wills with a wealth of traditions and experiences. The past, however, also entombs patriarchal notions inappropriate in Wills of today. This article explores the language of the Will to parse the historical choices that remain relevant choices for today and the vestiges of a patriarchal past that should be avoided.

Keywords: Wills, Estate Planning, Drafting, Gender

Suggested Citation

Sneddon, Karen J., Not Your Mother's Will: Gender, Language, and Wills (July 1, 2015). Marquette Law Review, Vol. 98, No. 4, Summer 2015. Available at SSRN:

Karen J. Sneddon (Contact Author)

Mercer Law School ( email )

1021 Georgia Ave
Macon, GA 31207-0001
United States

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