Document Executed in Hospital Not a Valid Will

estate planning attorneysIn a matter which recently appeared before Surrogate John Czygier Jr. sitting in Suffolk County, the validity of a will was being questioned.

A man was in the hospital. He wrote a one page document in his own hand and signed it before going into surgery. The document named his long time companion as executrix and gave her the large majority of his assets.

Sons Object to This Document Being Accepted as a Will

The man died. His companion sought to probate this document as a valid will. The sons objected to it being accepted as a valid will. The document had been witnessed by two individuals who work for the hospital. Both of these individuals stated the decedent executed the document in front of them and was of sound mind.

Judge John Czygier Jr. stated in his decision when a will is executed under the supervision of a lawyer there is a presumption of it being valid. In this case it was not executed under the supervision of a lawyer and there is no presumption of its validity. Judge Czygier stated in his decision the witnesses did not know the document being executed was a will. No evidence was presented the decedent knew he was executing a will. The decedent referred to the document only as his “wishes.” In addition, Surrogate Czygier stated the testimony did not meet the minimum statute requirements of “publication” of the proposed will. In addition, the document did not have the statutorily required attestation clause. The judge therefore took the position the minimum statutory requirements for the execution of a will were not met and this instrument could not be probated.

estate probate attorney on Long IslandElliot S. Schlissel is an attorney with more than 45 years of experience representing clients regarding wills, trusts and estate issues.