Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas, Orphans' Court Division, of Lancaster County, No. 345 1/2 of 1969, in re estate of Samuel C. Heiney, deceased.
Joseph D. Shein, with him Menno B. Rohrer, for appellants.
James F. Heinly, with him Lawrence J. Ruggiano, for appellees.
Jones, C. J., O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Eagen took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
For six months prior to his death, Samuel C. Heiney was aware that he had terminal cancer. During this period his physical condition deteriorated rapidly. Seventeen days prior to his death, Heiney executed a will devising his farm to his son L. Russell Heiney*fn1 and directing the residue of his estate to be converted
into cash and divided equally*fn2 among his eight children.*fn3
Six of decedent's eight children challenged the will. The only evidence presented to the register of wills by contestants was the testimony of a handwriting expert. The proponents of the will called the subscribing and attesting witnesses. The register found the signature genuine and concluded that contestants failed to establish either lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence.*fn4
In the orphans' court, the challengers requested that a jury be impanelled to decide the issue of testamentary capacity. The court refused this request and filed an opinion in support of its decision. After taking extensive testimony, the court affirmed the register's decree and issued a second opinion. This appeal followed.*fn5 We affirm.
Appellants have concentrated their attack upon the alleged lack of testamentary capacity. They contend that the orphans' court erred in placing upon them the burden of proving the decedent's lack of capacity. While admitting the general rule is that testamentary capacity is presumed, Brantlinger Will, 418 Pa. 236, 210 A.2d 246 (1965); Williams v. McCarroll, 374 Pa. 281, 97
A.2d 14 (1953), appellants assert that this case falls within an ...