Brief Fact Summary. Ronald K. Erickson and the defendant, Dorothy Erickson, executed two wills before their wedding. Extrinsic evidence revealed that Erickson’s attorney assured him his will was valid. The trial court admitted the will to probate and the appellant, Alicia Erickson, Erickon’s daughter, appealed the decision on grounds that Erickson’s subsequent marriage revoked the will.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under statutory law, if a testator writes a will and later marries, the act of marriage revoke’s the testator’s will unless the will includes a provision concerning the contingency of marriage. Extrinsic evidence is admissible to prove the testator’s intent when the writer of the will made a mistake as to the testator’s in drafting the will. There must be clear and convincing evidence that the writer’s error induced the testator to execute a will that he intended to be valid despite his subsequent marriage.
But in Massachusetts it was decided in Broadway National Bank v. Adams and in Claflin v. Claflin that in creating an equitable estate a donor may carve out and create such equitable rights in property as his fancy may dictate and his imagination devise, without regard to the rights appertaining to the several estates known to the law.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether extrinsic evidence is admissible if it reveals a scrivenor’s error led the testator to believe that his will was valid?
Held. Yes. The extrinsic evidence here showed by clear and convincing evidence that the attorney made an implied assertion that the testator’s will would be valid without the contingency of marriage. A couple of weeks before the testator died, the testator and his lawyer retrieved and reviewed the will. The lawyer assured the testator that the will he executed approximately eight years prior was valid and that his entire estate would pass to his wife. The testator relied on his lawyer and did nothing to change his invalid will.
Discussion. The issue in dispute in this case was not whether the testator intended to make gifts to certain beneficiaries. This was clear from the face of the will. However a statute operated to revoke his will and the testator was misled to believe that his will was unaffected by his subsequent marriage. There is not a great chance of fraud in this case of rewriting the testator’s intent. Extrinsic evidence is admissible to uphold the intent of the testator as it was expressed in his will.