Bifurcated Will Contests in NC

Posted on Apr 29, 2015 in News

Are there will contest lawsuits that have more than one Will?

Sometimes there are several different wills/documents purporting to be the will of the deceased, such that different parties are contending one over the other should be ruled as the Last Will and Testament of the deceased. Each party may want a different will as the will to use because one or the other benefits that particular party as opposed to the others.

If there are competing last wills happens, the trial may be bifurcated. Bifurcation is when the jury decides one issue, then after that decision, more evidence is presented and the jury decides the subsequent issues. This way, the court and jury will deal with issues of one written document at a time, most times starting with the most recently dated document purporting to a be the will. Bifurcation in Will Caveat cases (Will Contest Cases) are discussed in the following cases: In re Will of Mason, 168 N.C. App. 160, 163, 606 S.E.2d 921, 923 (2005); In re Will of Hester, 320 N.C. 738, 743, 360 S.E.2d 801, 804 (1987)

“A bifurcated trial is particularly appropriate where separate submission of issues avoids confusion and promotes a logical presentation to the jury, and where resolution of the separated issue will potentially dispose of the entire case. The better practice is to retain the same jury for all issues, even though it may hear the issues at different times.”

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