Some clients ask why all the formalities when we execute estate planning documents such as a Will. When a client comes in to sign a Will, we always assist the client with witnesses and a notary. In many states, a Will is not valid if not witnessed by at least two individuals.
A DC case from the D.C. Probate Division illustrates this point. The probate court allowed the probate of a Will that had been signed without any witnesses. D.C. law requires two witnesses to sign a Will in order to be legally valid. In this case, the court admitted certifications from people who had personal knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the execution of the Will.
When the case went to the Court of Appeals, the Court held that there is no getting around the requirement to have two witnesses for the Will to be valid. The distinction is that the court said the law could allow a Will to be admitted to probate even if the two witnesses could not be reached at the time the Will was probated. Nevertheless, it was not a substitute for having actual witnesses.
ABOUT STEVE SHANE
Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts, and a charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation, and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
Offit Kurman, one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the United States, serves dynamic businesses, individuals and families. With 15 offices and nearly 250 lawyers who counsel clients across more than 30 areas of practice, Offit Kurman helps maximize and protect business value and personal wealth by providing innovative and entrepreneurial counsel that focuses on clients’ business objectives, interests and goals. The firm is distinguished by the quality, breadth and global reach of its legal services and a unique operational structure that encourages a culture of collaboration. For more information, visit www.offitkurman.com.
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