Wills - Formalities Execution

In re Estate of Steed, 152 S.W.3d 797 (Tex. App. – Texarkana 2004, no pet. h.).

A computer file was located on Testator’s computer containing a document labeled as the final draft of his will. No signed copy of this will was presented to the court. The jury determined that Testator never executed this will.

On appeal, the court reversed holding that the jury’s finding was against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence. The court recognized the existence of a variety of suspicious circumstances such as the fact that Testator’s hard drives were removed by the proponents of the alleged will after Testator died and were not recovered until several months later. However, there was testimony from two witnesses and a notary that Testator had executed this will although the notary’s record book did not reflect the execution of the self-proving affidavit. The court’s reversal, however, does not mean that this will is valid or that the elements of proving a lost will were satisfied. Instead, the court merely determined that the jury’s determination that Testator did not execute the will was improper.

Moral: The notary should be certain to have the testator and witnesses sign the notary record book to create better evidence of the will execution. The existence of such evidence in this case could have made it easier to find that Testator actually executed the will.