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What would happen to this hypothetical case in probate?

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What would happen to this hypothetical case in probate?

Postby gwynethpaltrow8 » Fri May 04, 2012 7:36 pm

This is a hypothetical problem for a law class I am taking, and you are not giving me any legal advice by answering it.

John and Mary met when John was 24 and Mary was 21. John was working part time and finishing a graduate degree in economics. John was penniless and came from a penniless family; he struggled to make ends meet. Mary was making her way through a four-year degree program. She was living on a trust that would terminate when she turned 25; giving her full control over one million dollars.

John and Mary were in love; and married when John finished his degree and turned 25. They lived on Mary's trust, until John got a good job on the stock exchange within six months of marrying Mary.

When Mary turned 25 years old she came into possession of the trust principal. She turned over all of the funds to John for him to invest. I know what you are thinking: stupid girl. But you are wrong. John and Mary truly loved each other and would stay together in wedded bliss for their entire, and long lives. And Mary knew what she was doing with the money: John was extremely talented with investments and over the span of a sixty-year marriage he turned the one million dollars into 100 million dollars.

John and Mary had one daughter, Sally, who got married to a lawyer - and a nice guy at that - when she was 22 years old.

By the time John turned 81 years old he was found to have cancer. Treatment worked for a while, but by the time he was 84 the cancer worsened and he could no longer get around. He wanted to stay at home with Mary for the last days of his life, so Mary converted a room into a hospital room and hired Jane, a nurse, to stay with John. Jane was paid a very fair salary, with benefits.

Jane was a good nurse, but a self involved creep of a human being. She smelled money and saw an opportunity. Although Mary habitually visited John each day for hours at a time; Jane started to limit the visits. Eventually, Jane would obstruct Mary from visiting altogether. She told Mary that John had a bad night and was only just able to get to sleep, and should not disturb him. Mary believed Jane initially, but as time went on Mary realized she only saw John for an hour one or twice a week, and as time passed, even less than that. Each time she did manage to visit John he was either asleep or nearing unconsciousness - a drugged state. She started to worry. Finally John died.

Upon his death, Jane produced a piece of paper, which had scraggly, longhand writing on it. It was signed at the bottom in what appeared to be John's signature. There was no date, but Jane had signed it as a witness. Jane identified the paper as John's most recent will. The document stated that Mary and Sally had abandoned him, and Jane had become his most trusted and devoted friend. He had therefore decided to leave all of the property to Jane.

The exact language of the document was as follows.

To all that it may concern, my wife and daughter have abandoned me, therefore, being of sound body and mind, I hereby leave my entire estate, both real and personal property to Jane the Nurse. This includes the house at 12 Elm, Maplewood, USA, and the entirety of all bank and savings accounts, all stocks and bonds and all jewelry. Jane has become a very close and dear friend, one I can depend on as I once thought I could depend on Mary and my daughter Sally. Marry and Sally shall have nothing under this, my last testament.

Signed: John.
Witnessed by: Jane the Nurse.
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What would happen to this hypothetical case in probate?

Postby chika » Fri May 04, 2012 7:41 pm

The "will" produced by Jane would be thrown out. Every state in the union has a law on the books stating that a person who is named as a beneficiary in a last will and testament cannot legally sign as a witness. Since the "will" was illegally witnessed and there are no other signatures that would indicate someone else witnessed John's signature, this "will" is not legally valid.
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What would happen to this hypothetical case in probate?

Postby gilleabart » Fri May 04, 2012 7:46 pm

I'll add that there is no place in the US where a will with only one witness is valid. A will must have at least two witness and in some places three to be valid
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