Estate of Morea

The Facts

  • T’s friend was granted a bequest under T’s will and he was also an attesting witness
  • T’s son was an attesting witness and also a beneficiary who took a smaller testate portion than his intestate portion would have been
  • 3rd witness does not take anything under the will

Procedural History

  • This is some background on the procedural history of the case.

The Issue

  • Whether the bequest by T to T’s friend in void under statute in light of fact that he was one of 3 attesting witnesses and that T’s son was also an attesting witness who takes less under the will than he would under intestate succession

The Rule

  • An attesting witness to a will to whom a beneficial disposition is made is a competent witness and can be compelled to testify w/ respect to the execution of the will but that the disposition to the attesting witness is void unless there are, at the time of execution and attestation, at least 2 other witnesses to the will who receive no beneficial disposition or appointment thereunder.

The Holding/Disposition

  • No

Court’s Reasoning

  • Purpose of statute is to preserve the maker’s testamentary scheme to at least some extent by making all attesting witnesses competent while preserving the integrity of the process of will executions by removing the possibility that attesting witnesses who receive a disposition under the will might false testimony in support of the will to protect their legacies.
  • Critics say that NY law essentially punishes a beneficiary who serves as an attesting witness
  • T’s son doesn’t have his disposition voided because he is actually taking less than he would w/o the will
  • The object of the statute is to have 2 attesting witnesses with nothing to gain by the admission of the will to probate

This is fulfilled since there is one disinterested party and since T’s son is actually adversely affected by the will

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