Capsule Vocabularies: Testamentos

ES-EN legal translators (and lawyers and professors) often require a minimum basic vocabulary in a specific area of law, something that they will be hard pressed to find searching word-by-word in a dictionary. (In this case, the “problem” with dictionaries is that they are in alphabetical order.) Blog entries labeled “Capsule Vocabularies” will feature some of the basic terminology lists developed for use by my students of legal English that I hope may also be of interest to translator and interpreter colleagues and other legal professionals.

Testamentos (Wills)

When first faced with a translation dealing with inheritance law (Derecho de sucesiones, usually called “law of succession” in British English), translators may be surprised by the many forms a will may take under Spanish law. In the Civil Code wills are classified as either testamentos comunes (“ordinary wills”)or testamentos especiales (“special wills”), each requiring numerous formalities to be considered valid. The details are provided in Articles 676-736 CC, but some of the basic related vocabulary is provided below with their possible English renderings:

Testamentos comunes (ordinary wills)

  • Testamento abierto (“open will”)—a will made before a certifying authority, usually a notary public (testamento notarial, or “notarially-certified will”), but sometimes before a diplomatic or consular officer.
  • Testamento en peligro inminente de muerte (“deathbed will”)—a will that may be made orally and that requires specific formalities with respect to the number of witnesses (testigos). Wills made orally are known as testamentos nuncupativos (“nuncupative wills”).
  • Testamento en tiempo de epidemia (“will made during an epidemic”)—a provision in disuse that reflects the era in which the original Civil Code was enacted (1889). (Both the testamento en peligro inminente de muerte and the testamento en tiempo de epidema provide means for making a will when no notary is available, and both lapse two months after they are made if not recorded in a notarial instrument and entered in a notary’s record books (a procedure known as elevación a escritura pública y protocolización).
  • Testamento cerrado (known in English as “closed will,” “sealed will,” “mystic will” or “secret will”—a will made by the testator (testador) without the intervention of a notary and sealed in an envelope. The testator declares before the notary that the envelope contains his will and the notary affixes to it a certification to that effect. It may be kept by the testator himself, a person of his confidence or deposited with the certifying notary. Upon the testator’s death it must be opened in the presence of the judge having jurisdiction where the testator died, together with the intervening notary and witnesses. If the judge is satisfied that the document is indeed the deceased’s last will and testament, he issues an auto ordenado la protocolización del testamento (order that the will be entered in the notary’s record books).
  • Testamento ológrafo (“holographic will”)—a will that is wholly handwritten and signed by the testator. Upon the testator’s death it must be submitted to a judge to be authenticated in a process called adveración del testamento (“authentication of the will”).

Testamentos especiales (special wills)

  • Testamento militar (“soldier’s will”)—a will made by members of the military on active duty and other personnel employed by the army during times of war and certified by a military auditor (interventor militar).
  • Testamento marítimo (“sailor’s will,” “seaman’s will” or “mariner’s will”—a will made by persons on board during a voyage at sea and certified by the captain or commander.
  • Testamento del español otorgado en país extranjero (“Spaniard’s will made in a foreign country”)—a will made abroad that may conform to the laws of the country in question or be made pursuant to Spanish law in the presence of the consular officer serving as notary in that jurisdiction (testamento consular, or “consular will”).

Source: Rebecca Jowers, “Léxico temático de terminología jurídica español-inglés.” Valencia: Tirant lo Blanch, 2015, pp. 801-805.

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