Language Translation, Foreign Language Markings and Revoking Wills

We’ve blogged about professional translation and interpreting services, undue influence and foreign language-speaking individuals’ testamentary capacity. In a recent Ohio case, a testator drew an “X” through ten lines of the first page of the will, then marked out the X, struck out the amount of bequest of money and wrote other writings and multiple signatures on the will between and around the typed text of the will, but left the original signature untouched.

According to the court, as a matter of law the testator did not revoke the will. The court reasoned its decision on the fact that, according to state law, a will cannot be partially revoked by physical act and the acts in this instance indicated at most an intention to revoke the general bequest but definitely not the entire will. Horst v. Horst, No 22993 2009 WL 3068261 (Ohio Ct. App. Sept. 25 2009).

But what if the writings and markings were in a foreign language? The first step would be to get a foreign language translation of the subsequent added information. As to any writings, the foreign language translation would be fairly straightforward. However, as to any foreign language markings, things could get complicated. Markings often carry cultural significance and therefore any translation of them should be done by someone versed in the language and culture of the testator. Based on the foreign language translation of the words and markings, one can better understand the testator’s intent and, based on that, apply the relevant law as to revocation.

Up Next: Language Translation and Speaking a Foreign Language in the Workplace

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