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WRIGHT ESTATE. (01/04/55)

January 4, 1955

WRIGHT ESTATE.


Appeal, No. 293, Jan. T., 1954, from decree of Orphans' Court of Lancaster County, Sept. T., 1952, No. 13, in Estate of Andrew B. Wright, also known as Drew B. Wright, Deceased. Decree reversed.

COUNSEL

William J. Blank, for appellant.

Harris C. Arnold, with him Arnold, Bricker & Beyer, for appellees.

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

Author: Bell

[ 380 Pa. Page 107]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL

Andrew B. Wright died testate August 6, 1952 leaving a will dated January 21, 1948, the material part of which reads as follows: "This is my will: I want my two sisters Mrs. John Graeff and Mrs. Bess Gulbrandsen each to have ($3000) three thousand dollars. My nieces and nephews to each have two hundred dollars ( $200) and after all my debts have been paid the rest to be divided between my Two sisters. ..."

When the testator made his will on January 21, 1948 he had three sisters living. At his death he had two sisters living, and the child of a deceased sister.

The Register, following the principle laid down in Rockett Will, 348 Pa. 445, 35 A.2d 303, found that the word "three" was cancelled and the word "Two" was inserted by testator after the will was executed and after the death of one of testator's three sisters. He then probated the will as if it read, "The rest to be divided between my sisters", thus validating the cancellation of "three" but rejecting as invalid the insertion of the word "Tow".

What was the testator's actual intention and how can this be ascertained? In Britt Estate, 369 Pa. 450, 87 A.2d 243, we said (pages 454, 455): "The pole star in the construction of every will is the testator's intent: Woelpper's Appeal, 126 Pa. 562, 17 A. 870; Mulert Estate, 360 Pa. 356, 61 A.2d 841; Byrne's Estate, 320 Pa. 513, 181 A. 500. ..."

[ 380 Pa. Page 108]

In order to assist us in discovering testator's intention, as expressed in the four corners of his will, we may place ourselves in the testator's armchair and consider the circumstances by which he was surrounded at the time he made his alleged cancellation and interpolation: Kehr Will, 373 Pa. 473, 95 A.2d 647; Britt Estate, 369 Pa., supra; Jackson's Estate, 337 Pa. 561, 12 A.2d 338; Clark Estate, 359 Pa. 411, 59 A.2d 109.

"In determining the testator's intention - if no uncertainty or ambiguity exists - his meaning must be ascertained from the language of his will; it is not what the Court thinks he might or would have said in the existing circumstances, or even what the Court thinks he meant to say, but what is the meaning of his words: Conner's Estate, 346 Pa. 271, 29 A.2d ...


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