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Original Wills, Duplicate Wills

When requesting that a last will and testament be probated, the original will must be presented to the Court. The reason for this is that under Missouri law “a will is presumed destroyed by the testator [i.e., will-maker] with intent to revoke if the will was last seen in possession of the testator prior to the testator’s death and the will cannot be found after a diligent search was made therefore.” Board of Trustees of Methodist Church v. Welpton, 284 S.W.2d 580, 583 (Mo. 1955).

This, however, is a rebuttable presumption. Specifically, “competent and satisfactory” proof can be introduced to overcome the legal presumption that a will is presumed revoked if it is lost or destroyed. If this burden is met, the Court may accept a duplicate copy. What constitutes “competent and satisfactory” proof will depend on the circumstances, but certainly declarations of the decedent evincing the continued existence of the will are often introduced into evidence.

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