It is true in every legal jurisdiction here in the U.S. that, to be legally valid, all estate planning documents must be in writing and witnessed. For example, a last will and testament must be in writing, and the signing of the will must be witnessed by at least two persons (who also must sign as witnesses). So, a video-taped or recorded will is not legally valid if there is no written counterpart. For this reason, few elder law attorneys think of having a court reporter attend a will signing.
However, there is tremendous legal value in having a court reporter attend a will signing and prepare a certified transcript and video recording. The value is in providing solid — and nearly irrefutable — evidence that can be used to defend against and defeat certain types of will contests. If you want to make court reporting an integral part of your elder law practice, consider Elizabeth Gallo Court Reporting, LLC. Call us here at (866) 689-1837. We accept orders via email, phone, and via telefax at (866) 870-6032.
What is a Will Contest, and How Can a Certified Court Reporting Transcript Help?
A “will contest” is a legal proceeding that occurs after a decedent’s death that challenges the legal validity of the last will and testament. Many of the legal challenges are based on various possible legal theories concerning the mental capacity of the maker of the will or the validity of the execution. For example, a disgruntled heir might claim that the will was NOT signed in the presence of two witnesses. Whether such is legally “true” depends on the evidence that can be marshaled to support the claim of invalidity or to defeat the claim. With just this example, as a matter of preserving evidence, we can see the great value of having a certified court reporter attend a will signing.
Another potential claim that can be made by a disgruntled heir is that the maker of the will lacked mental capacity. For example, a person with a clear case of dementia or insanity does not have the legal capacity to execute a will. Again, we can see the great value of having a court reporter attend a will signing because the certified transcript and video recording become evidence that can defeat a claim that the maker of the will lacked mental capacity. Indeed, with the presence of a court reporter and video recording machines, an extended effort can be made to demonstrate mental capacity.
This is similarly true for other legal arguments that might invalidate a will, such as duress or undue influence. Duress will invalidate a will if the will was signed under some form of coercion or force. A certified transcript and video can be used as evidence to defeat that kind of argument. With undue influence, typically, the argument is that an aging person came under the emotional influence of a strong personality — often a caregiver — and gave to that person a substantial portion of the person’s estate. Again, a certified transcript and video of the will signing can be used as evidence to defeat that kind of argument.
Contact Elizabeth Gallo Court Reporting Today
For more information, call the experienced court reporters at Elizabeth Gallo Court Reporting. We follow the best practices in order to provide excellent litigation support to our customers. Contact us today to learn about our services and how we can help you.