Wait invited some
friends over to sign her will as attesters (aka witnesses). Wait tried to sign the will, but barely made a
mark before she declared that her hand was shaking because she was ill.
She directed her friends to sign and claimed that she would sign later,
when she felt better.
A few days
later, Wait showed her friend the signed will and declared that she had
Wait's relatives contested the validity of the will.
relatives had been completely cut out of the will and wanted the money.
The Probate Court
found that the will was invalid. The Estate appealed.
Court found that, according to Tennessee State law, the testator has to sign the will before the attesters do.
unsuccessfully argued that the mark she made on the paper before she gave
up was close enough to a signature to count.
people have historically gotten away with just making an 'X', so this
was kinda the same thing.
Court affirmed and found that the will was invalid.
Court found that under Tennessee State law, there are three ways to sign
a will properly:
Sign in the
presence of witnesses
the witnesses get there and then tell them it is your signature
else to sign the will for you in the presence of the witnesses.
Court found than an 'X' or other mark would have been ok, if the testator intended that to be their complete signature.
That wasn't the case here.
No one claimed
that there was any fraud involved, or that the will did not accurately
represent Wait's desires. This was solely a case of whether the will met
the letter of the law.
Is it right to
invalidate a will for nitpicky reasons like this? Once invalidated,
Wait's estate would transfer according to intestate transfer laws, which may be significantly different
than what she wanted. How is that just?