Brief Fact Summary. Sullivan executed a will that disposed her real and personal property to her “heirs at law.” Extrinsic evidence revealed that she informed her attorney that she wanted to leave her property to her twenty-five cousins, equally. The trial judge ruled that Sullivan’s only heir at law was her aunt and not her twenty-five cousins.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Extrinsic evidence is not admissible when the beneficiary of a will can be identified on the face of the will.
Even the fact that the will was not in conformity to the instructions given to the draftsman who prepared it or that he made a mistake does not authorize a court to reform or alter it or remould it by amendments.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether extrinsic evidence that a testator intended to dispose property to beneficiaries not named in the will may be admitted when a beneficiary can be ascertained from the face of the will?
Held. No. The words used in the will, â€œheirs at law living at the time of my deceaseâ€ undoubtedly refer to the testator’s aunt and not her cousins. The testator’ only heir at law was her aunt. Extrinsic evidence would only be admissible to help to determine the meaning of testaemtnary language that its not clear in its application to the facts.
Discussion. The Court does not want to redraft a testator’s will. Therefore, it will not allow extrinsic evidence to change the plain face meaning of a disposition under a will.