The issue before the Surrogate’s Court is whether a will was properly executed. New York estate law requires that in order for a will to be valid, it must meet certain technical requirements related to execution. That is the requirement now, and it was also the requirement decades ago when the will at issue in this 1954 Surrogate’s Court case was executed.
Decedent Estate Law, § 21 provides that in order for a will to be valid, there are 4 requirements related to execution: 1. The will must be signed by the testator at the end. 2. The testator must sign the will in the presence of two attesting witnesses. Otherwise, the testator must acknowledge to the witnesses that he signed the will. 3. At the time that he signed the will or acknowledged that he signed the will, the testator must also declare to the witnesses that the document that he signed was indeed his last will and testament. 4. The two attesting witnesses must also sign the will at the end.
In the case of In re Levine’s Will, the court had to decide if the second requirement was met that the decedent signed her will in the presence of two witnesses, or acknowledged to the witnesses that the signature on the will was indeed hers. One of the witnesses, Glackman, was not present when the decedent, B. Levine, signed her will. Therefore, in order for the execution of the will to be compliant with the statute, the decedent must have acknowledged to Glackman that she did actually sign the will. Levine did not do this.