By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann, a Monmouth County New Jersey Probate Dispute Attorney, Law Firm
Here’s an interesting case I recently read about involving an unsigned last will. Decedent was a trust and estates attorney for over fifty years, who died. His only next of kin were nieces and nephews. The decedent had not seen or had any contact with his children for over twenty years. He did, however, maintain a relationship with a nephew who, he had told his closest friends, was the person to contact if he became ill or died, and to who, he would leave his estate.
The nephew learned of his uncle’s death. An extensive search for a Will followed. A copy of purported Will was found in a drawer of decedent’s home, which, like his office, was full of clutter and a mess. Thereafter, a verified complaint seeking to have the document admitted as a last will to probate was filed. His siblings objected. The court appointed a temporary administrator. No other document purporting to be decedent’s Will was ever located.
The document proffered as the last will was a copy of a detailed fourteen-page document entitled “Last Will and Testament.” It was typed on traditional legal paper with decedent’s name and law office address printed in the margin of each page. The document did not contain the signature of decedent or any witnesses. It did, however, include, in decedent’s own handwriting, a notation at the right-hand corner of the cover page: “Original mailed to “my attorney”. The document named the decedent’s attorney as Executor of the purported Will. The Executor predeceased the decedent and the original of the document was never returned.
The purported Will provided a specific bequest of $50,000 to 1 child and $75,000 to another child. Twenty-five percent of the residuary estate was to pass to a trust for the benefit of a friend, who was to receive periodic payments there from. Seventy-five percent of residuary estate was to pass to the last child.
Years after drafting his last Will, Power of Attorney and Living Will, decedent acknowledged to others that he had a Will and wished to delete the bequest to his former friends, with who he apparently had a falling out. Despite his stated intention, decedent never effectuated any change or modification to his Will as no such document ever surfaced, even after the extensive search conducted of his home and law office after his death. In a soon to be posted follow up, I will tell you the outcome.
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