The Validity of Bruce Banner’s Last Will and Testament

The Marvel one-shot story of The Fallen is a Civil War II tie-in that featured the execution of Bruce Banner’s “living will.” The question presented is simple: was Banner’s will valid?

Matt Murdock was the executor of Banner’s estate and handled administering the distribution of property to Bruce’s friends and family. Bruce Banner appeared by recorded hologram to state his property distribution. Highlights of the will included:

Equal shares of Banner’s liquidated cash estate split 7 ways ($1,324 per person)

Each recipient was given a 1/7 share of the Benefit Corporation to administer Banner’s patents – ($234,484 per person, which would have tax liabilities).

Rick Jones was given Jimi Hendrix’s guitar

Everyone got an egg timer for anger management

It is also worth noting that Banner’s Benefit Corporation had anonymously paid out $230 million to the Hulk’s victims.

There is confusion over the use of the term “living will” to describe Banner’s will. State law generally defines a “living will” as regarding “life-sustaining treatment,” which is focused on patient treatment, “Do Not Resuscitate” orders, and other medical care to prolong the process of dying. See, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2133.01.

It is very likely Bruce Banner did have a living will. However, it is also likely he had a fully executed written will as well to manage his estate. As Bruce was buried in Ohio and his will read in that state, we will apply Ohio law on will construction:

Except oral wills, every will shall be in writing, but may be handwritten or typewritten. The will shall be signed at the end by the testator or by some other person in the testator’s conscious presence and at the testator’s express direction. The will shall be attested and subscribed in the conscious presence of the testator, by two or more competent witnesses, who saw the testator subscribe, or heard the testator acknowledge the testator’s signature.

For purposes of this section, “conscious presence” means within the range of any of the testator’s senses, excluding the sense of sight or sound that is sensed by telephonic, electronic, or other distant communication.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2107.03.

It is possible that Banner’s will was prepared in a different state, such as New Mexico or Utah. Ohio would recognize an out-of-state will as valid, if the will was valid in the sister state. See generally, Bailey v. Bailey (1837) 8 Ohio 239, 241.

The reader does not actually see Bruce’s written will, so it is unknown if it is properly signed and had two witnesses. However, that would not be exciting for many comic fans. The holographic Bruce Banner is way cooler to explain a legal document.

hulk_will_6347

For the record, Bruce’s holographic will would not be a valid holographic will just because Banner appeared as a recorded hologram. “Holographic wills” are a form of wills going back hundreds of years that are entirely handwritten and signed by the testator. Inheritance and Inconsistency, 57 Ohio St. L.J. 1057, 1071. These wills do not follow statutory will construction. Courts review the plain language of these instruments, because “the words employed should be given the meaning which would be imputed to them in common parlance.” Anderson v. Gibson (1927) 116 Ohio St. 684, 688.

Bruce Banner’s hologram listed the transfer of personal property and corporate shares with a value over $1.6 million and patents worth possibly millions of dollars. A written will would be necessary to properly execute Banner’s Estate. Given the fact Matt Murdock was the executor, that would not have happened without a will naming Murdock the executor or court appointment. As such, given the detailed intent by Banner to distribute his property, there had to be a written will. We can hope it was properly witnessed to be effective.

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Josh Gilliland

Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.