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JOHNSON WILL (04/01/52)

April 1, 1952

JOHNSON WILL


Appeal, No. 36, Jan. T., 1952, from order of Orphans' Court of Chester County, in Estate of James A. Johnson, deceased. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Samuel Lichtenfeld, for appellant.

Truman D. Wade, with him Wade, Wade & Wade, for appellee.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Bell, Chidsey and Musmanno, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 370 Pa. Page 126]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL

This is a will contest which presents a narrow question: Is the evidence concerning decedent's alleged delusions sufficient to entitle contestant to an issue devastavit vel non?

James A. Johnson, an illiterate colored man, died on September 30, 1948 at the approximate age of 84. Ten of his twelve children were living at the time of his death. Johnson went alone to his attorney's office and discussed with him in detail the proposed contents of his last will. The will was forthwith prepared by decedent's attorney; it was executed by a mark on August 6, 1947; and proved by the attorney and the subscribing witnesses. In his will he left two houses and their furniture to Edna Allison, who was an acquaintance and a white woman, if she survived him; otherwise they became a part of his residuary estate.

[ 370 Pa. Page 127]

The residue of his estate, the value of which was undisclosed, was left to seven (of his ten) named children. About eight months prior to this will he had made another will with the same, or substantially the same provisions for Edna Allison. The testator was suffering from senile dementia, from occasional loss of memory and from what appellant called a mental disturbance pertaining to sex.

The Orphans' Court judge who heard the evidence found that the testator possessed ample mental capacity to make a valid will; and there was no evidence of undue influence.

Appellant in his printed argument says: "This is not a case of general incapacity to make a will, but of a particular delusion which improperly influenced the decedent's testamentary disposition..." The particular delusion in this case is alleged to be that the testator believed that Edna Allison was coming to keep house for him when the colored man for whom she was then working died; and that he, the testator, had a mental disturbance pertaining to sex.

Eccentric wills are made sometimes by eccentric people, but that is not sufficient of itself to invalidate them. It is natural that children should want and expect to inherit their parents' property and will be greatly disappointed if the parent leaves a substantial part of his estate to others. But it is and always has been the law of Pennsylvania that every individual may leave his property by will to any person, or to any charity, or for any lawful purpose he desires, unless he lacked mental capacity, or the will was obtained by forgery or fraud or undue influence, or was the product of a so-called insane delusion. While it is ...


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