Updated: Nov 7, 2022
Conversations around gender and gender neutrality are becoming more and more mainstream. In the legal world, there has been an increase in the number of clients requesting gender-neutral documents. Gender neutrality is important when writing about people because it is more accurate — not to mention respectful — and is consistent with our desire to practice a policy that respects diversity, equity and inclusion. With these trends in mind, we recently made an effort to replace much of the gender-specific terminology in our estate planning documents with gender-neutral terminology.
The patriarchal past is apparent in the language of estate planning documents no more directly than with the continued use of the words “executrix” and “testatrix” in Wills. The feminized form of “executor” and “testator” are problematic because the use of feminized assumes the male as the norm. Using feminized terms also conveys that the role is less important, such as use of the term “laundress,” or that the role is typically a male role, such as use of the “aviatrix.” The gendered terms “executrix” and “testatrix” still continue to be commonly used today despite a widespread trend to minimize their use.
Along with the gender-inclusive incentives to change our terminology, these terms are verbal roadblocks to our clients’ understanding of their estate planning documents. Attorneys often use jargon in legal documents because they understand what those terms mean even if their client does not. That mindset puts the client in position of reduced importance - it implies that it is more important for the lawyers to understand the documents than their clients. That is backwards thinking, but it has prevailed in the legal community for centuries.
It is time for a change. It is very important to us that our clients understand their Wills, Powers of Attorney and Trusts. Equally important is that our documents reflect and respect our clients’ individuality and identity. Continuing to use antiquated jargon that is based on long-since expired stereotypes does not meet our clients where they are. Our hope is that the changes we’ve made to our documents will reflect the value we place on our clients.
Contact Fiffik Law Group's experienced estate planning attorneys today to get started on or make changes to you Will. We will make sure you understand and are represented by the terminology in your documents.