An Indian court has finally ruled on a decades-old royal dispute involving the estate of Harinder Singh Brar, the last maharajah of Faridkot, which was a tiny kingdom in Punjab before it was absorbed into India in 1947. The dispute pitted the palace officials against the surviving princesses. Brar died in 1989, leaving a wife, three daughters and a fortune worth more than 2.6 billion pounds. The court ruled that a purported will, which left the fortune to a trust run by palace officials, servants and lawyers, was a forgery. The ruling gives the Maharajah’s now elderly daughters back their inheritance.
The possibility of fraud is one of the main reasons that the original will must be presented for probate. This creates problems for family members when the original will is misplaced and they are left with only a copy. However, there are some situations in New York where a will can still be probated when the original or even a copy cannot be found.
How can a will be admitted to probate when the original was lost?
New York SCPA Section 1407 outlines the proof required to permit probate of a will when only a copy or other evidence of the will exists:
- Proof that the will was indeed properly executed by the decedent as required by New York law
- Evidence showing what was written in the will. This can be most easily accomplished with a copy of the executed will, but if there is no copy, it may be possible to be prove the will’s provisions by means of the testimony of two witnesses.
- Evidence that the will was never revoked by the decedent. This is difficult if the original will was kept by the decedent, since New York law presumes the will was destroyed and thereby revoked by the person, and although this presumption can be overcome, it may not be easy.
If you have recently lost a loved one and need to probate the estate, speak with a knowledgeable New York estate planning and probate attorney conveniently located in Staten Island.