Dead Man's Statute

Definition - What does Dead Man's Statute mean?

A dead man’s statute is an evidentiary rule that prohibits someone with an interest in a deceased’s estate from testifying about oral communications that the interested party and the deceased had about the deceased’s wishes for the estate.

Courts find testimony of this kind to be inherently untrustworthy because no one but the deceased can verify the truth of the communications.

Justipedia explains Dead Man's Statute

A dead man’s statute helps courts that are asked to divide the estate of someone who has died by trying to interpret the dead person’s wishes as best as possible. Usually, these wishes are expressed in a will. But, when a person dies without a will, or the will is unclear for some reason, litigation ensues.

An interested party could easily claim that the deceased told the interested party that they should get a certain amount of the estate in a private conversation, and there would be no way for anyone to contradict this statement. So, testimony about these kinds of conversations are categorically excluded by a dead man’s statute.

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