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The distinctive feature of a holographic will is less that it is handwritten by the testator, and often that it need not be witnessed.In Louisiana this type of testament is called an Olographic or Mystic will.The person who makes a will is not available to explain him or herself, or to correct any technical deficiency or error in expression, when it comes into effect on that person's death, and so there is little room for mistake.A common error, for example, in the execution of home-made wills in England is to use a beneficiary (typically a spouse or other close family members) as a witness—which may have the effect in law of disinheriting the witness regardless of the provisions of the will.
In 1973 an international convention, the Convention providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will, was concluded in the context of UNIDROIT.
Civil law systems often put some restrictions on the possibilities of disposal; see for example "Forced heirship".
Advocates for gays and lesbians have pointed to the inheritance rights of spouses as desirable for same-sex couples as well, through same-sex marriage or civil unions.
Though it has at times been thought that a "will" was historically limited to real property while "testament" applies only to dispositions of personal property (thus giving rise to the popular title of the document as "Last Will and Testament"), the historical records show that the terms have been used interchangeably.
Throughout most of the world, disposal of an estate has been a matter of social custom.
A minority of jurisdictions even recognize the validity of nuncupative wills (oral wills), particularly for military personnel or merchant sailors.