Tuesday, March 31, 2015


SECTION 2-1006. INTERNATIONAL WILL; EFFECT OF CERTIFICATE. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the certificate of the authorized person shall be conclusive of the formal validity of the instrument as a will under this [part]. The absence or irregularity of a certificate shall not affect the formal validity of a will under this [part].
This section, which corresponds to Articles 11 and 12 of the Annex, must be read with the definition of “authorized person” in Section 2-1001, and Articles III and IV of the 1973 Convention which will become binding on all states if and when the United States joins that treaty. Articles III and IV of the Convention provide:
Article III The capacity of the authorized person to act in connection with an international will, if conferred in accordance with the law of a Contracting Party, shall be recognized in the territory of the other Contracting Parties.
Article IV The effectiveness of the certificate provided for in Article 10 of the Annex shall be recognized in the territories of all Contracting Parties.
In effect, the state enacting this law will be recognizing certificates by authorized persons designated, not only by this state, but by the United States and other parties to the 1973 Convention. Once the identity of one making a certificate on an international will is established, the will may be proved without more, assuming the presence of the recommended form of certificate. Article IX(3) of the 1973 Convention constitutes the United States as the Depositary under the Convention, and Article II obligates each country joining the Convention to notify the Depositary Government of the persons designated by its law as authorized to act in connection with international wills. Hence, persons interested in local probate of an international will from another country will be enabled to determine from the Department of State whether the official making the certificate in which they are interested had the requisite authority.
In this connection, it should be noted that under Article II of the Convention, each contracting country may designate its diplomatic or consular representatives abroad as authorized persons insofar as the local law does not prohibit it. Since the Uniform Act will be the law locally, and since it does not prohibit persons designated by foreign states that are parties to the Convention from acting locally in respect to international wills, there should be a considerable amount of latitude in selecting authorized persons to assist with wills and a correlative reduction in the chances of local non-recognition of an authorized person from abroad. Also, it should be noted that the Uniform Act does not restrict the persons which it constitutes as authorized persons in relation to the places where they can so function. This supports the view that local law as embodied in this statute should not be construed as restrictive in relation to local activities concerning international wills of foreign diplomatic and consular representatives who are resident here.
The certificate requires the authorized person to state that the witnesses had the requisite capacity. If the authorized person derives his authority from the law of a state other than that where he is acting, it would be advisable to have the certificate identify the applicable law.
The Uniform Act is silent in regard to methods of meeting local probate requirements contemplating deposit of the original will with the court. Section 3-409 of the Uniform Probate Code, or its counterpart in a state that has not adopted the uniform law on the point, becomes pertinent. The last sentence of UPC Section 3-409 provides:
“A will from a place which does not provide for probate of a will after death, may be proved for probate in this state by a duly authenticated certificate of its legal custodian that the copy introduced is a true copy and that the will has become effective under the law of the other place.”
One final matter warrants mention. Implicit in local proof of an instrument by means of authentication provided by a foreign official, is the problem of proving the authority of the official. The traditional, exceedingly formalistic, method of accomplishing this has been through what has been known as “legalization”, a process that involves a number of certificates. The capacity of the official who authenticates the signature of the party to the document, if derived from his status as a county official, is proved by the certificate of a high county official. In turn, the county official’s status is proved by the certificate of the area’s secretary of state, whose status is established by another and so on until, ultimately, the Department of State certifies to the identity of the highest state official in a format that will be persuasive to the receiving country’s foreign relations representative.
Article VI of the 1973 Convention forbids legalization of the signature of testators and witnesses. It provides:
1. The signature of the testator, of the authorized person, and of the witnesses to an international will, whether on the will or on the certificate, shall be exempt from any legalization or like formality.

2. Nonetheless, the competent authorities of any Contracting Party may, if necessary, satisfy themselves as to the authenticity of the signature of the authorized person.
Thus, it would appear that if the United States, as contracting party, satisfies itself that the signature of a foreign authorized person is authentic, and so indicates to those interested in local probate of the document, the local court, though presumably able to receive and to act upon evidence to the contrary, cannot reject an international will for lack of proof. This is not to say, of course, that the authenticity of the signature of the foreign authorized person must be shown through the aid of the State Department; plainly, the point may be implied from the face of the document unless and until challenged.
Mr. Plantard’s commentary on this portion of the uniform law is as follows:
“Article 12 states that the certificate is conclusive of the formal validity of the international will. It is therefore a kind of proof supplied in advance.
“This provision is only really understandable in those legal systems, like the United States, where a will can only take effect after it has been subjected to a preliminary procedure of verification (‘Probate’) designed to check on its validity. The mere presentation of the certificate should suffice to satisfy the requirements of this procedure.
“However, the certificate is not always irrefutable as proof, as is indicated by the words ‘in the absence of evidence to the contrary’. If it is challenged, then the ensuing litigation will be solved in accordance with the legal procedure applicable in the Contracting State where the will and certificate are presented.
“The principle set out in Article 13 is already implied by Article 1, as only the provisions of Articles 2 to 5 are prescribed on pain of invalidity. Besides, it is perfectly logical that the absence of or irregularities in a certificate should not affect the formal validity of the will, as the certificate is a document serving essentially for purposes of proof drawn up by the authorised person, without the testator taking any part either in drawing it up or in checking it. This provision is in perfect harmony with Article 12 which by the terms ‘in the absence of evidence to the contrary’ means that one can challenge what is stated in the certificate.
“In consideration of the fact that the authorised person will be a practising lawyer officially designated by each Contracting State, it is difficult to imagine him omitting or neglecting to draw up the certificate provided for by the national law to which he is subject. Besides, he would lay himself open to an action based on his professional and civil liability. He could even expose himself to sanctions laid down by his national law.
“However, the international will subsists, even if, by some quirk, the certificate which is a means of proof but not necessarily the only one, should be missing, be incomplete or contain particulars which are manifestly erroneous. In these undoubtedly very rare circumstances, proof that the formalities prescribed on pain of invalidity have been carried out will have to be produced in accordance with the legal procedures applicable in each State which has adopted the Uniform Law.” 

No comments: