Brief Fact Summary. Decedent executed a holographic codicil directing that if her husband predecease her that her estate be distributed under his will. Decedent’s relatives contend that this codicil was invalid and the doctrine of independt significance could not apply because the all material provisions of the codicil were not in the decedent’s handwriting.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The doctrine of independent significance applies where the identity of the beneficiaries can be determined from facts that have independent significance outside of disposing of the decedent’s estate.
The cardinal rule in construction of all wills is that the court shall seek to discover the intention of the testator and give effect to it unless it contravenes some rule of law or public policy.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Did Mrs. Tipler’s holographic codicil contain all material provision in her own handwriting, thus allowing the doctrine of independent significance to apply?
Held. Yes. Evidence indicated that Mrs. Tipler wanted her estate distributed to whomever her husband wished and therefore a holographic codicil which bequeathed her estate to persons named as beneficiaries in his will does contain all material provisions. Therefore the doctrine of independent significance would apply and allow her estate to be distributed under her husband’s will even though it was not in existence at the time the holographic codicil was executed. .
Discussion. The doctrine of independent significance is an escape mechanism from the strict requirements of incorporation by reference. It allows for a will not to be invalidated simply because the disposition cannot be fully ascertained from the terms of the will. As long as there are facts that have independent significance apart from their effect upon the dispositions in the will then the court can look to such evidence to determine the identity of who will share in the disposition. The Court agrees with the trial court that the doctrine is satisfied in this case because Mr. Tipler’s will was not written with the intention of distributing Mrs. Tipler’s estate but rather had an independent significance of distributing his own estate.