Alan Secures Judgment in Complex Will Contest

In a recent court decision,  Alan secured a judgment for his clients in a will contest involving a novel issue:   What happens when someone produces a later will in an attempt to invalidate an earlier will that was already approved for probate?

Alan’s clients’ father had separated from his second wife,  and after the separation the father amended his will to name the children as  executors and beneficiaries (his second wife had been the primary beneficiary under the earlier will).    Several months later the father reconciled and moved back in with his second wife,   and the father executed an amended will (though Alan’s clients questioned the circumstances that led to that will’s signing).

After the father died,   the children submitted for probate the will that the father had signed that had left the estate to them.   As part of the probate process,  the children’s attorney sent notice of the probate petition to the father’s second wife,  and published the notice in the weekly newspaper in the town in which the second wife lived.  She did not file an appearance or otherwise contest the will,  and the will was admitted to probate.

Several months later,  the second wife submitted for probate the will that her late husband executed after they got back together.  Alan filed an objection on behalf of his clients,   on the grounds that the earlier will had already been submitted for probate without objection.  Subsequent to filing the objection,  Alan moved for summary judgment on his clients’ behalf,   and the court allowed the motion.

Rejecting the second wife’s contention that she had only recently learned of the contents of the will benefitting the children,  the court stated that the second wife “knew at the time [the earlier will] was probated that [the later will existed].   The fact that [the second wife] failed to discover that the will in probate was actually the [earlier will]  does not make the existence of [the later will” new evidence…[t]his case clearly does not fall within the rubric of newly discovered evidence.”

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