The basic reference work for all attorneys is Black's Law Dictionary. It may be tedious but it is sometimes necessary to proceed word-by-word through a document to understand exactly what it is and what it does. No one is born speaking legalese and every attorney started in the same way, learning the meanings of the words, one-by-one. Here is an example of a will from the 1700s. This particular will is that of George Washington. This is a copy of the first page:
The interesting thing about this will is that some of the same terms and language are in use today. Here is part of the text of the will on the first page:
In the name of God amen I George Washington of Mount Vernon—a citizen of the United States, and lately Pr
ident of the same, do make, ordai and declarethis Instrument; w h is written with my own hand d every page thereof subscribed h my name, to be my last Will & tament, revoking all others.
mprimus. All my
ts, of which there are but few, and none of magnitude, are to be punctu ly and speedily paid—and the Legaci reinafter bequeathed,are to be disc rged as soon as circumstances will rmit, and in the manner directe .
tem. To my dearlI have marked in bold the words that could appear in a will written today. There are movements from time to time to update the language used in wills but the problem is that all of the court cases concerning wills and trusts is based on the old wording and so if the words are changed, all of the terms would have to be litigated again.
loved wife Martha Washington give and bequeath the use, profit d benefit of my whole Estate, real and p sonal, for the term of her natural li —except such parts thereof as are sp cifically disposed of hereafter: mproved lot in the Town of Alex Pitt & Cameron give to her and> her heirs forev 1 as I also do my> household & Kitc furniture of every sort & kind, with the liquors and groceries which may be on hand at the time of my decease; to be used & disposed of as she may think proper.
Almost all other formal legal documents have the same conservative wording style despite constant attempts to update the language. I guess the consolation is that if you learn the old language, you will have no trouble understanding your own will.