Presentation on theme: "Today’s Class Revocation of wills or of specific devises in a will What if you change your mind about your will? Can you revoke it by an oral declaration."— Presentation transcript:
Today’s Class Revocation of wills or of specific devises in a will What if you change your mind about your will? Can you revoke it by an oral declaration (as you can with an advance directive for medical care)? Can you revoke particular devises by crossing them out? Components of a will 1
UPC §2-507UPC §2-507: Revocation of Wills (a) A will or any part thereof is revoked: 1.by executing a subsequent will that revokes the previous will or part expressly or by inconsistency; or 2.by performing a revocatory act on the will, if the testator performed the act with the intent and for the purpose of revoking the will or part or if another individual performed the act in the testator’s conscious presence and by the testator’s direction. 2
Problem: Revocation by Inconsistency T executes a will giving all her property to A. T executes a will that gives her diamond ring to B and her car to C. Hypo (a): T destroys the 2008 codicil. What result? Hypo (b): T destroys the 2003 will. What result? 3 A takes everything Codicil also is revoked The codicil revokes in part the bequest to A by inconsistency inconsistency
Revocation of Wills We’ve seen that I can revoke my will by performing a revocatory act, but that principle is not very useful—it’s a circular statement What counts as a revocatory act? If I shred my will or if I burn it, that’s a revocatory act But what if I do something short of a shredding or burning my will? Or what if I shred or burn my copy, and my attorney has the original for safekeeping? 4
Harrison v. Bird Nov Mar Sept Daisy Speer executed duplicate wills naming K. Harrison as the main beneficiary. [A duplicate will is signed and witnessed like the original. It’s not a copy, so it can be probated.] Speer instructed her attorney by phone to revoke her will. The attorney tore the will into four pieces and sent the pieces along with a letter stating that the will was revoked to Speer. Was this a revocatory act?revocatory act Speer dies, the letter from the attorney is found but not the pieces of the will. Should the court probate the duplicate, or proceed through intestacy? Harrison v. Bird p
Did Speer revoke her will? 6 It wasn’t properly revoked by the attorney However, a presumption of revocation is created if the evidence establishes that the testator had possession of the will before her death and the will is not found among the testator’s personal effects (p. 288). If the testator destroys the version of the will in her possession, all other copies of the will are deemed revoked as well.
Did Speer revoke her will? 7 Note the last paragraph of the opinion rejecting the beneficiary’s argument that the presumption of revocation should not arise. Here’s the argument of the beneficiary: Daisy thought that her will had been revoked by her attorney. Accordingly, when she burned or threw out the pieces, it wasn’t a valid revocation because she did not have an intent to revoke the will—she already thought it had been revoked. Not surprisingly, the court rejects this argument. As this case indicates, it’s not a good idea to have duplicate originals. Better to have photocopies clearly marked as COPY.
Questions, p If the four pieces had been found in her possession, the presumption of destruction would not apply, and the will would be probated. And yes, the lawyer would be liable for malpractice to Daisy’s heirs (or a court might impose a constructive trust on the beneficiary of the will). What if the torn pieces were found in a file marked “revoked will?” No valid revocation under UPC 2-507, and no presumption because they were in her possession. If you’re in a harmless error state, UPC would provide for a valid revocation (whether or not there was a marked file—possession of the torn pieces would provide sufficient evidence of revocation). What if she instructed her attorney to destroy the will while in the lawyer’s office but left before the attorney tore up the will? No revocation under UPC 2-507; revocation under UPC if clear and convincing evidence introduced in court.
Questions, p How do you rebut the presumption of revocation? It’s not enough just to say that the intestate heirs had a motive not to find the will. You need something more. In Turner case, there was a disinterested witness who saw the will on the day of the testator’s death, and there were disinherited siblings with access to the testator’s house immediately after the death. In Pallister, there was a relative who would have benefited from revocation with access to the testator’s house and safe deposit box and who had complained about being disinherited, and a testator who kept careful records about estate planning and who expressed affection for the will’s beneficiaries. Remember—the presumption that a lost will was destroyed is triggered only when the will was last in possession of the testator.
Proving a lost will 10 “If a will cannot be located after death, but the trier of fact finds that it was not revoked, the will is entitled to probate if its due execution and contents can be proved.” “Commonly in such cases, the will is proved by evidence of a law-office or other copy, or from the drafter’s notes and recollection. If its full contents cannot be proved, the will is entitled to probate to the extent that its contents can be proved.” Restatement (Third) of Property: Wills and Other Donative Transfers §4.1, cmt. k (1999).
Kroll wanted to destroy the will and codicil; her lawyer convinced her to keep them; he wrote “null and void” on the manuscript cover (will) and back (codicil) and she signed before two witnesses who did not sign. Kroll signed a codicil before two attesting witnesses; she gave the instrument to the attorney who prepared both documents. Kroll signed a will before 3 attesting witnesses; she gave the instrument to the executor for safe-keeping. Thompson v. Royall Sept. 4, 1932 Sept. 15, 1932 Kroll died. Sept. 19, 1932 Oct. 2, 1932 Thompson v. Royall p
Thompson 12 Was Mrs. Kroll’s attempt at revocation valid as the execution of a new will? No. The two witnesses failed to sign Was Mrs. Kroll’s attempt at revocation valid as the execution of a holographic will? No. The statements of revocation were in the lawyer’s handwriting rather than that of Mrs. Kroll Was there a valid physical act of revocation? No. There was no erasing or other defacing of the words on the will
Revocatory act Revocatory act under UPC 13 A revocatory act includes includes “burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying the will or any part of it. A burning, tearing, or canceling is a ‘revocatory act...’ whether or not the burn, tear, or cancellation touched any of the words on the will....” UPC § 2-507(a)(2) This provision is consistent with case law on burning or tearing, but inconsistent with most of the cases on canceling For cases showing flexibility on cancellation, see note 2, page 293
Revocatory act under the harmless error doctrine 14 Although a document or writing added upon a document was not executed in compliance with Section 2-502, the document or writing is treated as if it had been executed in compliance with that section if the proponent of the document or writing establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document or writing to constitute (i) the decedent’s will, (ii) a partial or complete revocation of the will, (iii) an addition to or an alteration of the will, or (iv) a partial or complete revival of his [or her] formerly revoked will or of a formerly revoked portion of the will. UPC § 2-503
Revocation in Indiana Revocation in Indiana Ind. Code § No will in writing, nor any part thereof, except as in this article provided, shall be revoked unless the testator, or some other person in his presence and by his direction, with intent to revoke, shall destroy or mutilate the same; or such testator shall execute other writing for that purpose, signed, subscribed and attested as required in [Ind. Code § or Ind. Code § (self- proving clause)]Ind. Code § A will can be revoked in part only by the execution of a writing as herein provided.
T executes a will, and the residue goes to four named relatives. T dies, and the will is found with one of the names marked out in pencil, p a) Is it a valid partial revocation under UPC § 2-507?UPC § Yes (but partial revocations in Indiana require an attested writing)attested writing) What about the fact that the marking out was in pencil? Pencil is okay, but court may conclude that it was tentative rather than final. b) What result in a state that does not permit partial revocation by physical act? The four named relatives divide the residue. If the fourth name cannot be discerned, the three remaining relatives divide the residue. c) The crossing out is valid even though there is no new signature. The authenticity comes from the document being in the testator’s own handwriting.
Dependent relative revocation 17 If a revocation is presumed to depend on an understanding of law or fact that is mistaken, the revocation is ineffective if the testator would not have revoked the will in the absence of the mistaken understanding. T executes a new will and revokes a prior will. The new will turns out to be invalid. A court will undo the revocation of the prior will if it concludes that T would not have revoked the prior will had T known the new will was invalid.
Dupre adds codicil. Dupre leaves will. LaCroix v. Senecal Mar. 26, 1951Apr. 10, 1951Apr. 19, 1951 Dupre dies. Residue & Remainder One-half to my nephew, Nelson Lamoth of Taftville, Connecticut, to be his absolutely; The other one-half to Aurea Senecal of 200 Providence Street, Putnam, Connecticut, to be hers absolutely. One-half to my nephew Marcisse Lamoth of Taftville, Connecticut, also known as Nelson Lamoth, to be his absolutely; The other one-half to Aurea Senecal of 200 Providence Street, Putnam, Connecticut to be hers absolutely. (Aurea’s husband serves as a witness) LaCroix v. Senecal p The codicil failed. Is the original item five renewed? Yes. She would not have revoked the original item 5 if she knew the new item 5 would fail.
Dependent relative revocation 19 The DRR doctrine requires that either there is an alternative plan of disposition that fails, or the mistake is recited in the terms of the revoking instrument (problem 2, p. 299) a few courts are willing to accept a mistake not in the terms of the revoking instrument when proved by clear and convincing evidence, as in Anderson, problem 2, page 300).
Problem 2, p On his typewritten will that includes a bequest of $1,000 to his nephew, T crosses out the $1,000, writes in $1,500, and initials and dates the change. a)$1,000—the handwritten part standing alone does not demonstrate testamentary intent; original bequest saved by DRR; $1,500 with observation and signature by witnesses b)$1,000—the $1,500 is not valid but neither is the crossing out of the $1,000 c)$1,000 per DRR d)Not clear. Would the testator have preferred to leave nothing or the full $1,000?
Problem 3, p On his typewritten will that includes a bequest of $5,000 to John Boone, T crosses out John and writes in Nancy. Can Nancy take? Nancy cannot take because the new bequest is not properly witnessed Does DRR save the bequest to John? Ordinarily not. T did not want John to take. But if John and Nancy are married, then DRR might be applied. Note the differential treatment as a holograph depending on whether the original will was a holograph.
Revival 22 Revival refers to situations in which a T executes will 1, revokes will 1 by executing will 2, and revokes will 2 on the assumption that will 1 is revived In most states, will 1 is revived In a minority of states, will 1 is not revived unless re-executed, and will 2 is saved by dependent relative revocation In a few states, will 1 is not revoked by will 2 until will 2 takes effect at T’s death, so revocation of will 2 means that will 1 would be valid at T’s death
Revival in Indiana 23 And if, after the making of any will, the testator shall execute a second, a revocation of the second shall not revive the first will, unless it shall appear by the terms of such revocation to have been his intent to revive it, or, unless, after such revocation, he shall duly republish the previous will. Ind. Code §
UPC §2-509UPC §2-509 Summary Under section (a), if will 2 (the revoking instrument) wholly revokes will 1, the revocation of will 2 by a revocatory act does not revive will 1 unless the proponent of will 1 shows that the decedent intended the revocation of will 2 to revive will 1. Under section (b), if will 2 only revoked will 1 in part, then the revocation of will 2 by a revocatory act does revive the rest of will 1, unless the party arguing against revival shows that the decedent did not intend the revocation of will 2 to revive those parts of 1 revoked by 2. Under section (c), if will 2 is revoked by a later will, will 3 does not revive will 1 unless the text of will 3 indicates such a result is what the testator intended. 24
Problems, p Who takes T’s property under UPC § 2-509(c)?UPC § 2-509(c) T probably wanted A to take under the first will—judging from the fact that he kept all three wills in his safe deposit box. However, you can’t tell that from the terms of the third will, as required to revived the first will under 2-509(c). Thus, H takes the estate. 3. UPC § and UPC § make DRR less necessary but not unnecessary. DRR tries to provide the testator’s second preferred approach. The two UPC provisions let the court accept evidence of the testator’s intent to carry out the testator’s preferred approach. DRR would still be needed when a first will is revoked but the second will is not actually drafted. 25
Revocation by Operation of Law Revocation by Divorce Applies in all but a handful of states where revocation occurs only if the divorce is accompanied by a property settlement. Revocation by Marriage Spouse generally takes intestate or elective share Revocation by Birth of Children Pretermitted child statutes protect unmentioned children who were born after the execution of the will No Revocation by Other Changes of Circumstances 26
Effect of divorce on a will If after making a will the testator is divorced, all provisions in the will in favor of the testator's spouse so divorced are thereby revoked. Annulment of the testator's marriage shall have the same effect as a divorce as hereinabove provided. Ind. Code § Under UPC § 2-804, provisions in favor of the spouse in wills, non-probate transfers and will substitutes are revoked, as are provisions in favor of the divorced spouse’s relatives. 27
Components of a Will We have seen that wills must be executed with testamentary formalities and that documents not so executed may not be treated as wills Nevertheless, there are circumstances under which evidence from non-will documents may be used to interpret wills Incorporation by reference Acts of independent significance 28
Components of a Will 1. Integration of Wills 2. Republication by Codicil 3. Incorporation by Reference 4. Acts of Independent Significance 29
Integration of Wills: Estate of Rigsby Page 1Page 2? 30
Republication by codicil A will is treated as if it were executed when its most recent codicil was executed, whether or not the codicil expressly republishes the prior will, unless the effect of so treating it would be inconsistent with the testator’s intent. Restatement (Third) of Property: Wills and Other Donative Transfers § 3.4 As the example on page 309 indicates, a codicil can fix an interested witness problem with the first will 31
UPC §2-510: Incorporation by Reference Any writing in existence when a will is executed may be incorporated by reference if the language of the will manifests this intent and describes the writing sufficiently to permit its identification. UPC §
Clark v. Greenhalge May Testator dies. Codicil 1 duly executed. Notebook notations made. Nurses see Testator writing in it. Will executed. Tangibles to Greenhalge except as “designate[d] by a memorandum … or in accordance with [my] known wishes.” “Memorandum” modified by Testator’s cross-outs, handwritten additions. No mention of farm picture. “Memorandum” with list of tangibles drafted. No mention of farm picture. Clark v. Greenhalge p. 310 Oct Jan./Feb Codicil 2 duly executed Promise to Ginny Clark to give her farm picture (presumptively contemporaneous entry in notebook). 33
Note some loose ends from Clark We know that the notebook was in existence when Ms. Nesmith executed her codicils, but do we know that the devise to Ms. Clark was written by October 23, 1980? Did Ms. Nesmith intend to incorporate the memoranda as part of her will or to provide a guide to her executor (note 40, p. 312, and court on p. 313 (“It is a written instrument which is intended to guide “Greenhalge”))? As UPC § indicates, the law is relaxed when it comes to tangible personal propertyUPC §
Mar. 25, 1932 Nov. 25, After 1935 Will left $4,000 to his executors “to be paid by them as shall be directed by me in a letter that will be found in my effects and which will be addressed to my executors and dated March 25, 1932.” Simon v. Grayson Codicil to the will. Testator dies. Letter of July 3, 1933 found in the testator’s safe-deposit box addressed to the executors: “In my will I have left you $4,000 to be paid to a person named in a letter. I direct you to pay the $4,000 to Esther Cohn.” July 3, 1933 Simon v. Grayson p
UPC §2-513UPC §2-513: Incorporating tangible personal property Separate writings for the disposition of tangible personal property may be prepared after the execution of the will if the writing is signed by the testator and the property and devisees are described with reasonable certainty The writings may be altered by the testator after its preparation 36
UPC §2-512: Acts of Independent Significance A will may dispose of property by reference to acts and events that have significance apart from their effect upon the dispositions made by the will, whether they occur before or after the execution of the will or before or after the testator’s death. Note that this doctrine allows the testator to alter the identifies of beneficiaries, or the property they receive, after execution of the will Case 2, pp , and leaving a more valuable automobile to a nephew, or changing the beneficiaries of the $1,000 payments to employees No reason to think the purchase of the new car or the hiring and firing decisions were influenced by the will 37
Problems, p “Contents of my house” It’s unlikely that T would have changed furniture, jewelry, artwork and clothing because of the will. But would it have affected what T put in the safe? Stock certificates and cash—intangible personal property—don’t count when the bequest is a general one like this. “Contents of the right-hand drawer of my desk” or of “my safe deposit box at First National bank” Courts uphold bequests from safe deposit boxes, even though they could be affected by testamentary motives, because of the protections against fraud. A locked right-hand drawer with no access to others is difficult to distinguish from a safe deposit box 38
Problems, p.324 T’s will describing the envelopes Could uphold under either acts of independent significance or incorporation by reference (if in existence at time of will or later codicil) 2. Sarah’s devise of the residue of her estate in 2000 to a charitable trust established by her brother, which was established in The devise can be upheld under the doctrine of independent significance. It is a devise of Barney’s own property that she ties into. Moreover, no room for fraud since the object of her bequest is found in another duly executed will. Can’t use incorporation by reference since Barney’s will wasn’t in effect when she wrote her will. 39
Will execution in Indiana Ind. Code § b) A will may be attested as follows: (1) The testator, in the presence of two (2) or more attesting witnesses, shall signify to the witnesses that the instrument is the testator's will and either: (A) sign the will; (B) acknowledge the testator's signature already made; or (C) at the testator's direction and in the testator's presence have someone else sign the testator's name. (2) The attesting witnesses must sign in the presence of the testator and each other. 40