The Uniform Probate Code and the International Will

Emily Graham left her assets in England when she married a French naval officer and went to France to live with him. After her husband died, Emily announced that she was returning to England for the rest of her life and bundled her children and baggage aboard a channel ferry. Before the ferry cleared French waters she became ill and was taken ashore at another French port. While waiting impatiently to recover sufficiently for a final return to England, Emily executed a will of her English assets in the form prescribed by English law, that is, in writing, signed by her and attested by witnesses who signed in her presence. Emily never recovered; she died in exile on the coast of France, no doubt with her eyes gazing yearningly toward the white cliffs of Dover. The English Court of Probate held the will a nullity as to assets in England because it was executed in the form prescribed by English law instead of that prescribed by French law, which required the presence of a notary. The rule laid down was that a will of movables must be executed in the form prescribed by the law of the testator’s domicile at the time of his death. The court’s opinion suggests that Emily’s intent to abandon French domicile would have become effective had she succeeded in actually leaving France. In that event, Emily’s will, executed in the English form, would have become valid as to movables in England.