Translation of Last Will and Testament

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Submitting a Foreign Language Will to Probate

It is a longstanding rule of law in the United States that a will does not have to be written in English in order to be submitted to probate. According to Heupel et. al. v. Heupel et. al., “In the absence of a statute to the contrary, it is not necessary that a will be written in English or any particular language.” 174 P.2d 850 (OK 1946).

Thus, unless a statute states to the contrary, as long as the will satisfies all other jurisdictional requirements, including being written, testified to and witnessed, a foreign language will may be submitted for probate.

However, it is standard practice for most courts to require the foreign language will to be accompanied by a certified English translation, completed by a professional foreign language translator.

In fact, many states have adopted this general ruling within their statutory law. A typical statute states that if a will is made in a foreign language, the court “shall certify to a correct translation thereof into English and the certified translation shall be recorded in lieu of the original.” (NRS 136.210).

The purpose of these statutes is to facilitate the recognition and probate of not only foreign language wills, but also of wills made in any foreign jurisdiction.

Click here to read our earlier legal translation blog entry, “How Language Factors Affect Asian-Americans in Probate Court”.

Click here to read our legal translation blog post “Translation of Foreign Laws and Wills, and the Law of Trusts and Estates when Foreign Real Estate is Involved”.

Up Next: Translations for Human Resources and Risk Management Departments, and Using Foreign Language Translations to Create Enforceable Employee Handbooks