Table of contents
Law of Wills
1st Edition
Browne C. Lewis
Table Of Contents
Law of Wills



Browne C. Lewis

Leon and Gloria Plevin Professor of Law and
Director, Center for Health Law & Policy

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law





CALI eLangdell Press 2016

Introduction.1. About the Author

Professor Lewis is the Leon & Gloria Plevin Professor of Law and the Director of the Center of Health Law & Policy at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Prior to joining the faculty at Cleveland-Marshall, Professor Lewis was an associate professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, a summer visiting professor at Seattle University School of Law and a legal writing instructor at Hamline University School of Law.  Professor Lewis has also taught in the American Bar Association CLEO Summer Institute.


Professor Lewis has been a visiting scholar at the Brocher Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland, the Hasting Center, and Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.  As a Senior Fulbright Specialist, Professor Lewis conducted research at Hebrew University and Haifa University in Israel.  Professor Lewis was also a Core Fulbright Scholar at King’s College in London, and a Robert Wood Johnson Public Health Law Scholar in Residence at the Cleveland Public Health Department.


Professor Lewis writes in the areas of estate planning, probate and reproductive law.  Her article on human oocyte cryopreservation was recently published in the Tennessee Law Review.  In 2012, New York University Press published Professor Lewis’ book on paternity and artificial insemination. Professor Lewis has recently completed a book on posthumous reproduction for Routledge Press.

Introduction.2. Notices

This is the first edition of this casebook, updated June 2016. Visit for the latest version and for revision history.

This work by Browne C. Lewis is licensed and published by CALI eLangdell Press under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). CALI and CALI eLangdell Press reserve under copyright all rights not expressly granted by this Creative Commons license. CALI and CALI eLangdell Press do not assert copyright in US Government works or other public domain material included herein. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available through

In brief, the terms of that license are that you may copy, distribute, and display this work, or make derivative works, so long as

  • you give CALI eLangdell Press and the author credit;
  • you do not use this work for commercial purposes; and
  • you distribute any works derived from this one under the same licensing terms as this.

Suggested attribution format for original work:

Browne C. Lewis, Law of Wills, Published by CALI eLangdell Press. Available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 License.

CALI® and eLangdell® are United States federally registered trademarks owned by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction. The cover art design is a copyrighted work of CALI, all rights reserved. The CALI graphical logo is a trademark and may not be used without permission.

Should you create derivative works based on the text of this book or other Creative Commons materials therein, you may not use this book’s cover art and the aforementioned logos, or any derivative thereof, to imply endorsement or otherwise without written permission from CALI.

This material does not contain nor is intended to be legal advice. Users seeking legal advice should consult with a licensed attorney in their jurisdiction. The editors have endeavored to provide complete and accurate information in this book. However, CALI does not warrant that the information provided is complete and accurate. CALI disclaims all liability to any person for any loss caused by errors or omissions in this collection of information.

Introduction.3. About CALI eLangdell Press

The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI®) is: a nonprofit organization with over 200 member US law schools, an innovative force pushing legal education toward change for the better. There are benefits to CALI membership for your school, firm, or organization. ELangdell® is our electronic press with a mission to publish more open books for legal education.

How do we define "open?"

  •  Compatibility with devices like smartphones, tablets, and e-readers; as well as print.
  •  The right for educators to remix the materials through more lenient copyright policies.
  • The ability for educators and students to adopt the materials for free.

Find available and upcoming eLangdell titles at Show support for CALI by following us on Facebook and Twitter, and by telling your friends and colleagues where you received your free book.

Introduction.4. Preface

Both lay persons and budding lawyers continue to be interested in the area of estates and trusts. While I was writing this book, several celebrities died. Certain deaths really attracted the attention of the public. Facebook and other social media sites were full of dedications to Prince when his death was announced. Robin Williams spent his life making us laugh; the tragic circumstances of his death made us sad. After all of the tears, memorials and speculations ceased, people started searching the Internet for copies of the wills. They were interested in the worth of the various estates and the manner in which those estates would be distributed. They were shocked when Prince died without leaving a will.  They watched legal experts go on television to explain the consequences of Prince’s failure to execute a will.  At times, the media coverage was like watching the introduction to a Wills & Trusts class.  Prince died a single man with no children.  He was survived by several whole-blood and half-blood siblings.  There were even persons coming forth claiming to be his non-marital children.  When cases like this occur, people realize that estate planning and probate law are still interesting and relevant.

The purpose of this casebook is to train the students to think and act like estate planning attorneys.  This book is meant to be used in conjunction with a book on the law of trusts.  The focus of the book is problem-solving and legal application.  The book includes numerous problems, so the students can learn to apply the law they learn from reading the cases.  It also contains collaborative learning exercises to encourage students to engage in group problem-solving.  This book contains less policy than traditional casebooks in the area.  Instead the book contains numerous problems that will enable the students to understand and apply the black letter law. The book is divided into three parts to reflect the main types of issues that students will encounter if they practice elder or estate planning law.  The order of the book mirrors the manner in which estate planning law is practiced in the real world. 

The book starts with an examination of the intestacy system because the majority of people die without executing a will.  Therefore, most of the legal issues an estate planning lawyer faces center around the intestacy system.  Unlike the typical wills casebook, this book provides a detailed discussion of the intestacy system.  A chapter on ethics is included because estate planning attorneys encounter ethical issues that are different from persons practicing in other areas of law. 

The second part of the book includes an exploration of the testacy system.  It is arranged so professors can lead students from the client interview to the will execution.  The first three chapters of this section deal with issues that directly impact the existence of the inheritance system.  It analyzes a person’s ability to control the disposition of his or her property after death.  This serves as the students’ first introduction to the power of the “dead hand”.  These chapters are included to start a public policy discussion about the rights of the dead, the right of heirs, and the necessity of an inheritance system.  I tell my students that, when executing a will, they must think of the ways that it can be contested.  In addition, I tell them that a will can be contested on two fronts-an attack on the testator and an attack on the will.  Two chapters in this part highlight the various ways that someone might question the testator’s ability to execute a valid will.

The final chapters in this unit show the issues that can be raised to dispute the validity of the will.  They also explain the different types of wills that are available. The final part of the book deals with non-probate transfers.  These chapters are included to show students the other devises that people can use to dispose of their property.  That knowledge is important because a significant number of people use these devices to transfer their property.  For example, at the end of the semester, my students have to draft a will based upon a fact pattern that I give them.  I intentionally include non-probate property in order to see if they will attempt to distribute that using the will.

Most of the litigation that occurs in the estates and trusts area center around family disputes.  Consequently, the book devotes a significant amount of time analyzing family dynamics.  To that end, the book discusses the ways in which families are legally formed.

Purchase this material to get access to the full version

Add to cart

Showing only first chapter for book preview.