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In re Estate of Hall

Montana Supreme Court
51 P.3d 1134 (2002)


Facts

In 1984, James Mylen Hall executed a will (Original Will). In 1997, he and his wife, Betty Lou Hall (proponent), worked with their attorney on preparing a joint will (Joint Will). During a meeting with their attorney to review a draft of the Joint Will, they marked it up with various revisions and agreed that the draft will as revised was an accurate statement of their testamentary plan. Since their attorney still needed to draft the final, clean copy with the mark-ups on the draft incorporated, James and Betty Lou asked him if they could execute the draft in the meantime to ensure that their testamentary scheme was protected. Their attorney advised them that the draft would be enforceable if it was signed and notarized, so James and Betty Lou proceeded to execute the marked-up draft of the Joint Will. The will was notarized by their attorney without any other witnesses. James then asked Betty Lou to destroy the Original Will and she did so. After James died on October 23, 1998, Betty Lou offered the Joint Will informally for probate. Sandra (objector), one of James’ daughters from a prior marriage, objected to informal probate of the Joint Will and offered the Original Will for formal probate. After the court admitted the Joint Will to probate, Sandra appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Reginier, J.)

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