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Estate of Peters

526 A.2d 1005 (1987)

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Estate of Peters

New Jersey Supreme Court

526 A.2d 1005 (1987)

Facts

Conrad Peters and Marie Peters were married. The two had no children together, but Marie had a son, Joseph Skrok (plaintiff), from a prior marriage. Conrad suffered a stroke that left him physically, but not mentally, impaired. Sophia Gall, a notary public, drafted wills for Marie and Conrad and brought the wills to Conrad’s hospital room. Marie’s will left her estate to Conrad, or to Joseph if Conrad predeceased her. Similarly, Conrad’s will left his estate to Marie, or to Joseph if Marie predeceased him. Conrad signed the will in the hospital room. None of the people in the room at the time signed the will as witnesses, although Sophia later signed the will as the notary public. Later in the day, Mary Gall and Kristen Spock came to the hospital to serve as witnesses. Sophia reviewed the will with Conrad and the witnesses, and the witnesses saw Conrad acknowledge the will’s contents. However, the witnesses did not sign the will. Fifteen months later, Marie died, and about five days later, Conrad died. Joseph filed Conrad’s will for probate. The State of New Jersey (defendant) challenged the will’s validity. The trial court held that the will was valid, treating Sophia’s signature as a witness signature and allowing one of the other witnesses to sign the will, albeit 18 months after the witness observed Conrad’s acknowledgement of the will. The appellate court reversed, finding the will to be invalid because it was not attested to by witnesses. Joseph appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Handler, J.)

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