In a Will Contest Do the Witnesses to the Maker’s Signature Have to Read the Document First? (Part 3 of a 3 Part Series)

HNWElder Law, Estate Administration and Probate

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Probate & Estate Administration Attorney

The court acknowledged the possibility that “one or more papers of the will might be removed and another substituted,” but concluded that this possibility “is not sufficient to justify denying admission of a will to probate.”

Just because computers make forgery easier does not mean we should revisit settled case law, said the court. Fraud and forgery are relatively rare. Imposing heightened requirements for submitting a Will to probate, based on the outlier possibility of forgery, would thwart the salutary simplicity found in the statutory scheme. This simplicity facilitates the ability of property owners to transfer their estate by means of a will. Said the court,

“The purpose of the statutory requirements with respect to the execution of Wills is to throw every safeguard deemed necessary around a testator while in the performance of this important act, and to prevent the probate of a fraudulent and supposititious Will instead of the real one…It is, however, quite as important that these statutory requirements should not be supplemented by the courts with others that might tend to increase the difficulty of the transaction to such an extent as to practically destroy the right of the uniformed layman to dispose of his property by Will.”

Thus the Appellate Court adhered to its existing case law, which requires the proponent of a Will to prove compliance with statutory requirements for the execution of a Will, and, once that has been done, places the challenger of a Will the burden of proving fraud.

To discuss your NJ Probate & Estate Administration matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.


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