Brief Fact Summary. Appellant appeals from a judgment wherein the petition to admit decedent’s will to probate was denied on the ground of testamentary incapacity.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The legal presumption is always in favor of sanity, especially after attestation by subscribing witnesses and it is the duty of the subscribing witnesses to be satisfied of the testator’s sanity before they subscribe the instrument.
It must be an insanity of one of two forms, either insanity of such broad character as to establish mental incompetency generally, or some specific and narrower form of insanity, under which the testator is the victim of some hallucination or delusion.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether or not the court erred when they denied admitting decedent’s will into probate based on the ground of testamentary incapacity?
Held. Yes. Judgment and order reversed.
There’s no evidence that the decedent suffered from settled insanity, hallucinations or delusions. Testamentary capacity cannot be destroyed by showing a few isolated acts, idiosyncrasies, moral or mental irregularities, or departures from the norm unless they directly bear upon and have influenced the testamentary act. The opinions of those who testified that decedent was not of sound mind rest upon testimony of the most trivial character and don’t establish testamentary incapacity at the time decedent executed his will.
Discussion. A duty attaches to a witness to satisfy himself of the competency of the party before he gives his name to attest the act. Similar to a magistrate that makes an acknowledgement of a deed, he is to be reasonably assured of the facts he undertakes to verify or else he makes himself instrumental in a fraud upon the public.