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LANNING WILL. (05/11/64)

May 11, 1964

IN RE LANNING WILL.


Appeal, No. 154, March T., 1963, from decree of Orphans' Court of Allegheny County, No. 3802 of 1960, in re estate of Charles S. Lanning, deceased. Decree reversed.

COUNSEL

Dale T. Lias, for appellant.

Clyde E. Donaldson, for appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 414 Pa. Page 315]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE JONES

This appeal challenges a decree of the Orphans' Court of Allegheny County which dismissed an appeal from a decree of the Register of Wills admitting to probate a holographic writing dated September 4, 1954, as the last will of Charles S. Lanning (decedent).

Decedent, 93 years of age, died on August 26, 1960. On December 1, 1960, decedent's lawyer-prepared typewritten will dated April 13, 1951, was admitted to probate. Three months later, George Moehring (Moehring), sole beneficiary under the holographic writing of September 4, 1954, appealed from the probate of the 1951 will. Moehring's appeal was sustained by the Orphans' Court of Allegheny County, and the Register of Wills was authorized to entertain an application to probate the 1954 will; thereafter, the 1954 will was duly probated. Shirley L. Lober, decedent's niece and residuary legatee under the 1951 will, then appealed to the Orphans' Court alleging (a) the 1954 will had been obtained through fraud, duress and undue influence exerted upon decedent by Moehring and his wife, (b)

[ 414 Pa. Page 316]

    the said will was a forgery and (c) decedent lacked testamentary capacity.*fn1

After hearing testimony, the court upheld the 1954 will and dismissed the appeal. From that decree this appeal was taken.

Decedent, for many years a manufacturer's agent acting principally for E. L. Post & Co., Inc., of New York (Post), retired sometime in 1954. Decedent lived in a home operated by a Mrs. Helen Wunderlich at 210 North Bellefield Avenue, Pittsburgh, from 1942 until either August or October of 1954 at which time he moved to a nursing home operated by Moehrings in Pittsburgh. Decedent's nearest relatives were Shirley Lober, the contestant, and the Misses Bulette, cousins living in York, Pa.

In passing upon the issues raised upon this appeal, we recognize that the findings of facts of the chancellor, who heard the testimony without a jury, approved by the court en banc, are entitled to the weight of a jury's verdict, that such findings are controlling and that the court's decree should not be reversed unless it appears that the court abused its discretion or that the court's findings lack evidentiary support or that the court ...


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