Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In re Estate of Hall case brief

In re Estate of Hall case brief summary
2002 MT 171

SYNOPSIS: Appellant daughter of the decedent appealed a judgment of the Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County, Montana, admitting the decedent's and his wife's joint will to probate.

-The daughter argued that the joint will was invalid as a matter of law because no one properly witnessed it.
-The instant court noted that the daughter's arguments why the will was improperly witnessed were irrelevant to this appeal.
-The only question before the instant court was whether the district court erred in concluding that the decedent intended the joint will to be his will under Mont. Code Ann. § 72-2-523.

The instant court concluded that the district court did not err in admitting the joint will to probate.

-The district court made several findings of fact that supported its conclusion. In particular, the district court noted that the joint will specifically revoked all previous wills and codicils made by either the decedent or his wife.
-Furthermore, the district court found that, after the decedent and his wife had executed the joint will, the decedent directed the wife to destroy the original will.
-Because the decedent directed the wife to destroy his original will, the instant court also concluded that the district court did not err in finding that these acts were acts of revocation of the original will.

A document which is not properly witnessed by two or more people who see the testator sign the will and also sign themselves may be probated if the proponent of the document establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent had intended the document to be his will.

OUTCOME: The judgment was affirmed.

In re Estate of Hall (Mont. 2002) [30 CB 231]: Husband and wife execute joint will which is notarized by lawyer, but not attested b/c no witnesses are available.  Husband dies.  Rule: Under MT’s enactment of the UPC dispensing statute, this is a valid will b/c evidence shows that upon execution of this will, husband had wife physically destroy and thus revoke a prior will, thus husband intended the joint will to be his new will.
a.   At issue is a joint will of two parties (bad idea), which is really only effective against the first party as the second to die can always change the will after the first party dies (cf. mutual wills, which are two separate, mirror wills)
b.   Joint wills require both parties’ consent in order to modify
c.   Court can’t apply substantial compliance here b/c will is not even close to substantial compliance requirement necessary to trigger that curative doctrine

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