By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Probate & Estate Administration Attorney
ISSUE ON APPEAL
The issue before the Appellate Court was whether witnesses to a Last Will and Testament were required to authenticate all three pages of the document. The trial court admitted the testimony of the witnesses to refute the challenger’s claim that the will was fraudulent and declined to adopt a novel and more rigorous standard for admitting a will to probate.
In this case, the Will consisted of three computer-generated pages of the same font type and font size. There were no page numbers, or paragraphs between the pages. There were staple holes that lined up for all three pages. The Will provided among other things, that nothing was to go to decedent’s estranged daughter, that all of his property and possessions were to go to his other daughter and the executor may not “extend” any property to decedent’s son until he paid off the debts he owed to his father.
Counsel for the objectors (son and one daughter) raised the prospect that the first two pages of the Will filed for probate might have been substituted after the Will was executed. The trial court admitted the trial testimony of several witnesses to prove the validity of the Will. The court further concluded that the Will offered for probate met the statutory requirements for a valid Will and that it contained the same three pages as those present at the time of execution. The trial court directed the clerk to admit the will to probate. An appeal followed. On my next blog I will discuss the court’s reasoning.
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