Lawyers and judges use language that is unique to the law. Statutes make reference to submitting the “purported will” to the court in connection with probate proceedings instead of simply requiring the submission of “the will.” Reference to the instrument as the purported document of the deceased is in keeping with a basic principle of law requiring evidence to prove an issue or, in the case of a will, to prove that the document is, in fact, the will of the deceased. Here are two principles you should know.
Principle one: Someone must prove validity of a purported document or fact
A party putting forth a fact that has not been acknowledged as true by the opposing party has the burden of coming forward with evidence to persuade a judge or jurors that the fact is as it is purported or alleged to be. For example, the person seeking to have a will probated by the court to have an executor appointed to take charge of the estate has the burden of proving that the purported will is the document prepared on behalf of the deceased.
The person submitting the probate petition must prove that the will was signed by the maker who understood what it was that he or she was signing. It must also be proven that the purported will was signed and executed in accordance with the law in the state in which it was signed. If the judge presiding over the probate proceeding is satisfied that the affidavits from the attesting witnesses establish that it was properly signed and witnessed, the judge would issue a court order declaring it to be the will of the deceased and empower the named executor to act on behalf of the estate.
Principle two: Burden of proof is different in civil and criminal cases
A defendant facing criminal prosecution does not have to do anything to defend against the purported charges because the law gives prosecutors the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor must present evidence to a judge or to a jury to persuade and convince them that the purported charges filed against the defendant are true.
The evidence must convince a reasonable person of the validity of the facts in issue to the exclusion of other reasonable possibilities or conclusions that might be drawn. If it does, then the prosecutors have met the reasonable doubt standard.
Civil cases are quite different from their criminal counterparts. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff or the person bringing the case to prove the purported facts by a preponderance of the evidence. This means by the greater weight of the evidence which is a much lower standard than is required in criminal cases.
What would a lawyer think?
Proving the truth of allegations or the validity and genuineness of a document or of a fact can be a difficult task requiring evidence to persuade lawyers, judges and jurors that what is being alleged or purported is, in fact, true.