The testator spoke little English – is the will valid?

  • The testator does not need to speak or read English for the will to be valid
  • The will is presumed to be valid if
    • the will was properly executed,
    • after having been read over to or by the testator
    • who appeared to understand it
  • However, the presumption of validity can be rebutted if there are suspicious circumstances
    • involving the preparation of the will,
    • the capacity of the testator; or
    • showing that the free will of the testator was overborne by acts of coercion or fraud.

In Maddess v. Racz the testator spoke mainly in Hungarian.  Her will gave more to her son, and less to her daughters.  The daughters challenged the will, in part because the testator spoke little English.

The court said that the will was valid.  There were no suspicious circumstances.  The will was the testator’s only will and it was prepared by a lawyer who was not related to anybody involved.  The testator spoke enough English that she was able to communicate with the lawyer, and he did not feel that a translator was needed.  The evidence did not show that she was frail or forgetful when she made her will.

This decision was upheld on appeal.

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Read the case:  Maddess v. Racz