Dead Man'S Statute Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Dead Man'S Statute, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Dead Man'S Statute?

It’s a legislative act denying any credibility to a testimony about any communication, transaction, promises made by a deceased person, from someone who would be the interested party by claiming a witness after the person’s death.

History and Meaning of Dead Man's Statute

The Dead Man's Statute is a legal principle that prevents someone with a personal interest in the outcome of a legal case from testifying about conversations they had, promises made or transactions entered into with a dead person. This principle is based on the belief that the dead person cannot defend themselves against any false claims, is available in some form in almost every U.S. state, and has a historical origin.

The principle dates back to English common law in the 17th century when the law limited the ability of a party fighting the estate of a deceased person. The U.S. Dead Man's Statute emerged in the early 19th century and has been modified over time, with some states restricting testimony by interested parties about communications with a deceased person only in certain circumstances, such as during necessary conversations about medical care or funeral arrangements.

Examples of Dead Man's Statute

  1. If a man dies in a car crash, and his wife was a passenger with him, she would not be able to testify if he was driving negligently.

  2. A man inherits his father's property after his father passed away. This man would not be able to testify about any conversations or promises made by his father that could harm any other heir's lawsuit that intends to cancel the will.

  3. If a person dies while their house is being sold, their interested heirs cannot testify about any discussions and negotiations between the deceased and the buyer.

Legal Terms Similar to Dead Man's Statute

  1. Burden of Proof: The obligation of a party in a legal matter to prove their allegations presented in the court.

  2. Hearsay: The use of statements made out of court and offered in court as evidence in trials, depositions or affidavits.

  3. Confidentiality: The legal protection of certain information from being disclosed to an individual or entity without the consent of the person who disclosed the sensitive information.