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While there are all kinds of legal ways to leave a Will, one North Dakota resident has found that the holographic Will he entered into probate, belonging to his deceased brother, won’t be upheld. The issue went all the way to the North Dakota Supreme Court, after the lower court ruled that the Will wasn’t valid. The Supreme Court agreed, stating that the entire Will was not in the handwriting of the decedent.
While much of the Will was in the proper handwriting, there was a clause that stated the decedent was leaving to his brother “everything I own.” That clause didn’t carry the decedent’s handwriting, and the court ruled that the burden of proof was on the brother. This was a burden that he failed to meet, even though he presented seven witnesses who all stated that the handwriting belonged to the deceased brother of the claimant.
The issue wasn’t that the Will was holographic, but that the difference in handwriting between that clause and the rest of the Will raised legitimate concerns about the Will’s validity. To that end, it’s entirely possible for a holographic Will to be considered valid in North Dakota. However, it appears in this case that the burden of proof wasn’t met by the brother.
Skip Beach had seven siblings and a daughter and it’s entirely possible that he decided to leave everything to only one brother. However, since the handwriting for the “everything I own” clause didn’t match the rest of the Will, which was in Skip’s handwriting, it appears suspicious.
The courts are concerned with meeting the proper burden of proof, and Skip’s brother Clark didn’t meet that burden with the holographic Will and the witness testimony he provided. Since the holographic Will won’t be probated, it will remain to be seen if there is another, valid Will that Skip left behind, or whether the courts will have to decide how to settle his estate.
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