A will allows you to choose how your estate is distributed after you pass away. You can also include instructions for things like guardianship of any children, funeral arrangements and burial instructions. Your will can be as simple or complex as you want, but in most cases you’ll need at least two competent witnesses to sign it. Probate is the legal process that transfers your assets to the people or organizations you name in your will. Get the facts about the probate process and how it affects your estate plan.
Texas Probate Terminology
Statute of Limitations, Texas Probate (Estates) Code: four years
Writ of Error: a demand that a lower court provide a case record to an appellate court. This record can then be reviewed for supposed errors of law that occurred during a judicial proceeding.
The Probate Case
Douthit v. McLeroy, 539 S.W.2d 351 (Tex. 1976).
Facts & Procedural History of the Probate Case
Nola Mae Douthit applied to have the will of her deceased husband, Taylor Denney Barnett, admitted to probate. The couple’s daughters, Marjorie L. McLeroy and Bonnie F. Cooper, contested the will on the grounds that Mrs. Douthit had failed to submit her application prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations. The Texas Probate Code (later replaced by the Texas Estates Code) requires that the wills be offered to probate within four years of the testator’s death. The will did not contain the signatures of two witnesses as required by the Texas Probate Code. The witnesses signed a “self proving” affidavit, but not the will itself.
The Probate Court found that the will had been properly executed and that the widow was not barred from presenting the will, despite her failure to meet the statute of limitations. The daughters subsequently appealed to the Court of Civil Appeals. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed, stating that the will had not been properly witnessed and was thus void. Mrs. Douthit appealed, and the Texas Supreme Court stated that section 59 of the Texas Probate Code requires that a will have two witness signatures, but that here the witnesses signed an affidavit rather than the will itself. Without the signatures, it was an error to admit the will to probate. The burden of proof regarding the will’s validity had been properly placed on the widow. Despite the failure of the contestants to plead invalidity and obtain a new trial, and even if the trial court had not erred, the issue of will validity was properly brought before the Court of Civil Appeals. The Supreme Court refused the writ of error and agreed with the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals.
Douthit v. McLeroy shows that, when seeking to admit a will to probate, the will must include two witness signatures. When improper attestation (admission of a will) is taken to the Court of Appeals, the burden of proof is placed upon the proponent (Mrs. Douthit).
Do You Need a Probate Attorney to Settle an Estate in Austin, Texas?
Our probate attorneys are skilled in probate administration and litigation, from the initial delivery of an accurate death certificate to the final distribution of all assets according to the court order. Hire an experienced probate lawyer in the Austin-Round Rock metro area or in the surrounding communities. Contact us on our homepage, and don’t forget to ask about our Free 30-minute probate attorney consultation.
How many signatures do you need on a will UK?
It is advisable to sign any will in any jurisdiction to make it valid. The reason for this is that a will can be contested if it is not signed and there is no clear evidence that the deceased intended to dispose of their estate in the way they have done.
Will signed by two witnesses?
A will is a legal document where you can list your last wishes so that your property and belongings go to the right people after you die. A will is legally binding if it meets the legal requirements of your state. The best way to make sure your will is legally binding and that your assets are distributed as you intended is to have it signed by two witnesses. This will make it much harder for someone to challenge your will after you die.
Is a notarized will legally binding?
In the case of a will, it’s only legally binding if it meets the legal requirements of your state. State law determines the legal validity of a will. The requirements for a valid will vary from state to state. These requirements ensure that your will is binding, and that your intentions are followed after your death. To make sure you’re eligible to write a valid will, contact an attorney in your area.
Who can witness a will?
A will is a legal document that states how you would like your estate to be distributed after you pass away. If you die without a will, your estate will pass to your next of kin by the laws of intestacy. Two witnesses are required to witness your will in order for it to be valid. There is usually a will ceremony as part of a valid will requirements.
Are handwritten wills legal?
A handwritten will is a legal will in the state of Texas. A handwritten will is also known as a holographic will. A handwritten will can be written by you. This legal document is filed in the court of your residence. The handwritten will does not need to be witnessed or notarized, but it does need to be signed by you and two other people who are present when you sign the document. The holographic will is filled out in the same way as a formal typed document. A holographic will does not need to be typed or printed and can be written on anything that can be written on including a napkin, receipt, and even scrap pieces of paper.
What happens if a will is signed but not witnessed?
If you do not have two witnesses when you sign your will, it is not valid. You should sign your will in the presence of two witnesses. To prove your will is valid, you must provide the names of two witnesses who also signed it.