“Hi, I’m Kent Berk. I’m an attorney at the Scottsdale, Arizona law firm of Berk Law Group, where we handle probate, trust estate and other types of matters here in Arizona. I want to explain today what happened in the case of the estate of Jeanine Jones.
In this case, there was a girl, Elisa. After she was born her mother died and she was adopted. A while later,she re‑established a relationship with her grandmother, Jeanine Jones, and eventually, Jeanine adopted a will providing that Elisa was going to get a portion of her property in Lake Havasu, Arizona.
The will that Jeanine prepared was partially typed and partially handwritten, but it was not witnessed by two witnesses under Arizona law, so some other beneficiaries of Jeanine’s estate after she died contested the validity of that will and claimed that Elisa was not entitled to anything. So there are three questions.
One, was the partially typed, partially handwritten will valid even though it did not have two witnesses? The court found that it did not, that the right to adopt a will is granted by statute under law, and in order to adopt a valid will, you have to comply with the statutes, and since this will was partially typed and partially handwritten and didn’t have two witnesses, it was not a valid will.
The second question was whether it was a valid holographic will or a handwritten will. Arizona does permit a handwritten will, but there’s two requirements. One, all of the material terms have to be in the handwriting of the person ‑‑ in this case Jeanine, the grandmother ‑‑ and it must be signed of course, by the person.
In this case, part of the terms were typed and part of them were handwritten, and the court found that all of the material terms were not handwritten in Jeanine’s handwriting. Therefore, it was not a valid holographic will.
The third question was, if the will was not valid, whether Elisa was entitled to a portion of her grandmother’s estate by what is called intestate succession. When a person dies without a will, it’s called intestate. The court found that unfortunately Elisa was not entitled to a portion of Jeanine’s estate by intestate succession because of the adoption.
Once Elisa was adopted, Elisa is deemed to be the child of her adoptive parents and no longer the child of her birth or biological parents, as a result of which, unfortunately, Elisa was not entitled to any part of her grandmother’s estate.
This is just one example of “Do it yourself or beware.” Here Jeanine was trying to probably save some money and adopted this will thinking it was valid when in fact it wasn’t. Spending a little bit of money on an estate planning attorney would probably have saved a lot of time and expense in attorney’s fees litigating over the validity of this partially typed and handwritten will.
If you have any questions or you need any help with a probate trust or estate matter here in Arizona, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Thank you.” – Kent Berk