In ruling upon the validity of a contested Last Will and Testament, there are numerous witnesses whom a Court may hear testimony from in deciding whether to invalidate the will. As is the case in any litigation, fact witnesses who possess relevant knowledge with regard to the facts and allegations set forth in the Complaint are essential witnesses. These witnesses may possess knowledge with regard to the mental status of the Decedent at the time the disputed Will was executed, the relationship that the Decedent shared with his family members, and other issues concerning the Decedent’s physical health and general appearance at the time the contested Will was executed.
In addition to fact witnesses, the Court will often hear testimony from expert witnesses. These experts may opine as to the mental and physical capacity of the Decedent at the time the Will was executed, as well as whether the Decedent was susceptible to undue influence. Undue influence, as discussed in a previous blog, means that another party asserted their dominion or control over the Decedent such that the Will did not reflect the Decedent’s true intentions, but rather, those of the party who asserted the influence.
Aside from fact witnesses and expert witnesses, the Court may also hear the testimony of quasi-expert witnesses. While these witnesses may be experts in their fields, they have not been retained by a party to provide expert testimony. Typically, these types of witnesses may involve treating physicians, nurses, or other health care professionals who may have provided care or maintenance to the Decedent.
Furthermore, the Court may also hear the testimony of the lawyer who drafted the disputed Will, as well as the witnesses to this document. As such, these witnesses don’t neatly fall into the category of expert witnesses or lay witnesses.
Although this blog provides a summary of the types of witnesses who may testify during a Will contest, this is only a short summary of who may offer testimony. Obviously, it is important that experienced counsel be retained in order to properly address the potential testimony of any such witness who may testify during these proceedings.