In an interesting ruling by the New Jersey Appellate Division in the Matter of Estate of Richard D. Ehrlich, it was determined that a will that was neither dated nor signed could be admitted to probate. Richard Ehrlich, a trust and estates attorney, passed away on Sept. 21, 2009 leaving Todd and Jonathan Ehrlich, and Pamela Venuto, his niece and nephews, as his only next of kin. After his passing, Jonathan discovered a copy of a purported will in a drawer. It was typed on legal paper and included Richard Ehrlich’s name and law office address on each page, although it wasn’t dated or signed. It did include, in decedent’s own handwriting, a notation “Original mailed to Harry Van Sciver 5/20/2000”. The document named Harry Sciver as Executor of purported will. Van Sciver predeceased the decedent and the original of the document was never returned. The purported will stated that Jonathan was to receive a significantly larger portion of the estate than Todd or Pamela. For a complete copy of the case, click here: Estate of Richard D. Ehrlich
The issue The Court had to rule on was whether an unexecuted copy of a purportedly executed original document sufficiently represents the decedent’s final testamentary intent to be admitted into probate under New Jersey law.
The Court ruled that because the decedent “undeniably prepared and reviewed the challenged document…..the purported will both contains a level of formality and expresses sufficient testamentary intent and was assented to by the testator.” Not all the judges agreed, as one dissented because he believed NJ law does not authorize the admission to probate of an unexecuted will.