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NJ Supreme Court To Rule on Probate of Unexecuted Will - In Re Ehrlich

As a follow-up to https://gdm-law.com/index.php?page=blog&display=85, and per the New Jersey Law Journal, the New Jersey Supreme Court " is set to decide whether an unsigned copy of a purportedly executed will can be admitted to probate when the original document cannot be found."

From the article:

"In In re Estate of Richard Ehrlich, A-43-12, a Burlington trusts and estates lawyer left behind a probate battle over his own assets. When he died at age 74 in 2009, a 14-page "Last Will and Testament" was found was in a drawer in his home, which an appeals court described as "full of clutter and a mess," like his office.


"The purported will, dated May 20, 2000, was on traditional legal paper and had Erhlich's name and law office address printed in the margins but was not signed by him or witnessed. No original of the will was found among his possessions. A handwritten note indicated the original had been mailed to his friend, Harry Van Sciver, a local banker named as executor, who unfortunately had died in July 2005.


"Ehrlich had prepared the unsigned will right before life-threatening surgery in 2000, together with a power of attorney and health care proxy that had the same paper and date but were witnessed by the Burlington County surrogate."

...

"Burlington County General Equity Judge Michael Hogan granted Jonathan's request to probate the unsigned will[.]"

"A divided Appellate Division panel affirmed, based on a 2004 law that allows probate for wills that do not meet the formal criteria — a writing signed by the executor and two witnesses — so long as there exists clear and convincing evidence of the testator's intent.


"Judges Anthony Parrillo and Carmen Alvarez found Jonathan met that standard because Ehrlich clearly prepared the document, which expressed "sufficient testamentary intent" and was "a professionally prepared will and complete in every respect except for a date and its execution.""


...


"Judge Stephen Skillman, the dissenter in Ehrlich, was also on the Macool panel, but he repudiated his earlier stance, stating that "upon further reflection," Macool was "too expansive" in that it "seems to indicate" in dictum that an unsigned draft will can be probated if the putative testator gave "final assent" to it. His view in Ehrlich was that the law "only allows the admission to probate of a defectively executed will, not an unexecuted will.""


More after the jump...