A.R.S. 14-2502 Interpretation

In Gonzalez v. Satrustegui, 178 Ariz. 92, 97, 870 P.2d 1188, 1193 (App. 1993), a couple agreed to make joint and reciprocal wills. Id. at 95, 870 P.2d at 1191. After completing will forms received by mail, they took the forms to a bank and signed them in the presence of each other and a notary, who notarized their signatures. Id. No witnesses signed the forms. Id. After one of the parties died, his sister challenged the validity of the will on the grounds that it failed to comply with the formal requirements of A.R.S. 14-2502 that a will be signed by two witnesses. Id. The purported beneficiary of the disputed will argued that because she observed the testator sign the will, she also could sign the will as a witness even as late as during the litigation. Id. at 98, 870 P.2d at 1194. The Court disagreed and concluded that a person could not sign a will as a witness after the testator's death. Id. at 99, 870 P.2d at 1195. At the time, A.R.S. 14-2502 (1975) provided: Except as provided for holographic wills, . . . every will shall be in writing signed by the testator or in the testator's name by some other person in the testator's presence and by his direction, and shall be signed by at least two persons each of whom witnessed either the signing or the testator's acknowledgment of the signature or of the will. Gonzalez, 178 Ariz. at 97, 870 P.2d at 1193. The Court noted that requiring signatures of attesting witnesses guarded against fraudulent wills and provided a means of proving authenticity. Id. at 97, 870 P.2d at 1193. The Court reasoned that allowing witnesses to sign a will after the testator's death would undermine the safeguards against fraud and mistake intended by the statute and that while fraud or mistake may or may not be present in any particular case, the rule requiring witnesses to sign the will prior to the testator's death "is prophylactic and requires uniform application." Id. at 99, 870 P.2d at 1195.