Substitutionary Evidence Law and Legal Definition

Substitutionary evidence is a term used to describe alternative methods of proving the existence of a lost item, such as a decedent's will. For example, in the lost will case of In re Will of McCauley, 356 N.C. 91, 565 S.E.2d 88 (2002), the court allowed the substitute evidence of due execution in the form of the testimony of the secretary who discussed with the decedent the changes to be incorporated into the will, transcribed the will, read the will to the decedent, and observed and notarized the signatures of the decedent and the two attesting witnesses. The court described substitutionary evidence to be "[O]ther than testimony from the attesting witnesses, the absence of which is validly accounted for, this evidence is “the best competent evidence obtainable". The court stated that, while one attesting witness to a will would not be sufficient for valid execution, one witness's testimony that the will was attested by two witnesses may be sufficient to show that the will was duly executed.