Legal Blog

Can an unsigned copy of the Will be accepted into probate?

Harmless Error RuleIt is already devastating enough when a beloved family member passes away. It is even more devastating when no one is able to locate neither the original Will nor a copy of the signed Will. What happens is these situations? Can an unsigned copy of the Will be accepted into probate? The “Harmless Error” Rule Section 2-503 of the revised Uniform Probate Code (UPC) treats a noncomplying will “as if it had been executed in compliance with [Wills Act formalities] if the proponent … establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document” as his/her will. This has come to be known as the “harmless error” rule. If there is a harmless error made in the execution of a Will, the “harmless error” rule relaxes the requirement that there be an original Will admitted to probate. However, not all states have adopted the UPC. For instance, Maryland has not adopted the UPC. The “Harmless Error” Rule in Action In a recent decision, a New Jersey Court allowed the admission of an unsigned photocopy of a Will that had presumably been lost to be accepted into probate under the “harmless error” rule. New Jersey’s version of the law states that a document “intended as a decedent’s Will” can be accepted where the proponent can show by ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that the document was intended as the Will. The problem becomes meeting the higher proof standard of “clear and convincing.” It is much easier and safer to review and reevaluate your estate planning goals and documents every three to five years or as often as changing life circumstances may require. Offit Kurman Attorneys at Law: Estates, Trusts and Elder Law Practice Group At Offit Kurman Attorneys At Law, estate planning is one of the most fundamental and important legal services we provide. We are dedicated to the design, documentation, and implementation of high-quality estate plans for individuals and families to help you transfer wealth from one generation to the next and beyond. Through our unique estate planning process, our attorneys develop a customized plan tailored to meet your specific needs and objectives. If you have any questions about Estate Planning, please fill out the contact form found on OffitKurman.com to access the knowledgeable legal guidance that our experienced estate planning team of attorneys has to offer. We are a dynamic legal services provider assisting clients throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Our firm is well positioned to meet the legal needs of dynamic businesses and the people who own and operate them. You can also connect with Offit Kurman via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Sources: The Weekly Scenario from Steve Shane – 7.23.12 Harmless Error Rule Cornell University Law School