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DETTRA WILL. (07/31/64)

July 31, 1964

DETTRA WILL.


Appeal, No. 320, Jan. T., 1963, from decree of Orphans' Court of Philadelphia County, No. 3486 of 1961, in re estate of Elsie W. Dettra, deceased. Decree affirmed.

COUNSEL

Frank F. Truscott, with him Otis W. Erisman, I. Irving Tubis, and Truscott, Kline, O'Neill & Howson, for appellants.

Paul Maloney, with him Holbrook M. Bunting, Jr., and Pepper, Hamilton and Scheetz, for appellees.

Vincent X. Yakowicz, Deputy Attorney General, with him Herbert W. Salus, Jr., Special Assistant Attorney General, and Walter E. Alessandroni, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 415 Pa. Page 199]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE JONES

On this appeal we are called upon to determine two principal questions: (1) whether the evidence produced in the court below was legally sufficient to support a finding that the decedent lacked testamentary capacity to make this will and/or a finding that undue influence was exerted upon decedent to procure this will so as to justify the conclusion that this will is invalid? (2) whether the proponents of the will received a fair and an impartial trial?

Elsa W. Dettra (decedent), a resident, for approximately a quarter century, of the Washington Hotel in Philadelphia, died at the age of 85 years on May 19, 1961. At the time of her death, several persons claiming to be decedent's relatives survived her.*fn1 Decedent's estate was inventoried at approximately $127,000.

On May 16, 1961 - while decedent was a patient in Temple University Hospital*fn2 - decedent executed the will now challenged. Under the terms of that will, she gave her entire estate "... unto my friends Meyer M. Weissman, [Weissman], and Estelle Weissman, [Mrs. Weissman], husband and wife, in consideration of their having taken care of me for many years ..." and appointed Weissman as the executor. Whatever relationship existed between decedent and the Weissmans arose from the fact that, during the time of decedent's residence at the Washington Hotel, Weissman was at one time the manager and later a part owner of that hotel.

On May 23, 1961, the will of May 16, 1961 was probated and letters testamentary were issued to Weissman.

[ 415 Pa. Page 200]

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appealed to the Orphans' Court of Philadelphia County from the probate of that will.*fn3 Estelle Vogel and Rilla Cornell, claimant-relatives, later joined in the proceedings and, although disputed, it seems clear ...


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