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Dependent Relative Revocation

testator doctrine apply court

The doctrine that regards as mutually interrelated the acts of a testator destroying a will and executing a second will. In such cases, if the second will is either never made or improperly executed, there is a rebuttable presumption that the testator would have preferred the former will to no will at all, which allows the possibility of probate of the destroyed will.

Some jurisdictions decline to apply the doctrine of dependent relative revocation to cases to eliminate a written revocation of a will, but apply it to declare the ineffectiveness of a physical act of revocation. The justification for the distinction is that the physical act is inherently equivocal. The court has the power to interpret the ambiguous act to ascertain what the testator did but not to disregard an express statement of the testator and substitute its own conception of what the testator should have done.

The doctrine of dependent relative revocation contravenes the strict interpretation of and demand for rigid adherence to the specific language of the statutes concerning the execution and revocation of wills and the theory of the PAROL EVIDENCE rule. In deciding whether to apply the doctrine, the court considers the testamentary pattern of the decedent, the terms of the prior wills, the respective identities and shares of the beneficiaries under the previous will and the new will in question, the nature of the defect that prevents the new will from taking effect, and the trustworthiness of the proof of the reasons for the testator's desire to make the desired objective to the former testamentary plans as contrasted to the application of the laws of DESCENT AND DISTRIBUTION. The court will not execute a new will, but it will eradicate revocations to infuse new life into a prior will that achieves the same objective.

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