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HUNTER WILL (11/10/64)

decided: November 10, 1964.

HUNTER WILL


Appeal from decree of Orphans' Court of Westmoreland County, No. 1544 of 1962, in re estate of Adelaide C. Hunter, deceased.

COUNSEL

Joseph I. Lewis and Robert W. Smith, Jr., with them Smith, Best & Horn, for appellants.

Gilbert J. Helwig, with him H. Reginald Belden, Louis E. Sensenich, Mason Walsh, Jr., and Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellees.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: Roberts

[ 416 Pa. Page 128]

Adelaide C. Hunter died November 13, 1962, at the age of seventy-nine. This appeal arises from an adjudication that testatrix lacked testamentary capacity on November 24, 1960, to revoke her will dated April 17, 1953, and that she was without testamentary capacity on January 16, 1962, to execute a new will.

[ 416 Pa. Page 129]

Appellant is Grace G. Hunter, executrix of the estate of David A. Hunter, deceased,*fn1 who, together with Christine Hunter Clark,*fn2 was the primary beneficiary, residuary legatee, and proponent of the will of January 16, 1962. Appellees are contestants of that will and offered for probate a carbon copy of an earlier will dated April 17, 1953.

Following certification of the entire record to the orphans' court by the register of wills, counsel for David Hunter filed a formal request for trial by jury. The matter came on for hearing before the court, sitting without a jury.

The hearing judge concluded there was no necessity for a trial by jury. He made extensive findings of fact and conclusions of law sustaining the caveat to the 1962 will and dismissing the caveat against the probate of the 1953 will. A carbon copy of the 1953 will was admitted to probate. This appeal followed.

It is not disputed that, as determined by the court below, "prior to October of 1960, Adelaide C. Hunter was a woman of brilliant intellect, able and accustomed to taking care of herself and her own affairs, with a wide range of interests in the fields of business, culture and local civic affairs. She had a successful career as a business woman in the advertising and personnel departments of May Department Stores, Kaufmann Division, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, until her retirement in 1953." It is also undisputed that testatrix suffered a cerebral vascular accident and was confined

[ 416 Pa. Page 130]

    in Montefiore Hospital, Pittsburgh, from October 16, 1960, until November 5, 1960.

Based on the testimony of examining physicians*fn3 and laymen who observed ...


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