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In re Honigman

    Brief Fact Summary. Decedent’s widow, appellant, appeals from a decree wherein the court found that decedent was not suffering from insane delusions. Appellant alleges the decedent was suffering from insane delusions when he executed the will because he cut her out of the will based on his belief that she was unfaithful to him.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. If a person persistently believes supposed facts, which have no real existence except in his perverted imagination, and against all evidence and probability, and conducts himself, however logically, upon the assumption of their existence, he is, so far as they are concerned, under a morbid delusion; and delusion in that sense is insanity.

    Facts. On May 4, 1956, Frank Honigman, decedent, died and was survived by his wife, Florence. Under a last will and testament that decedent executed one month before his death, he gave $5,000 to each of three named grandnieces, and cut off his wife with a life use of her minimum statutory share, plus $2,500, with the principal to be paid to his surviving brothers and sisters and the descendents of any predeceased brothers or sisters, upon his wife’s death. Decedent bequeathed the other half of his estate in equal shares to his surviving brothers and sisters and to the descendant’s of any predeceased brother or sister. At the time the decedent executed his will, he was under the belief that his wife was unfaithful to him, which affected the dispositions he made in his will. When decedent’s will was offered for probate, his widow Florence, appellant, filed objections alleging that decedent was not of sound mind when he executed his will. The jury found decedent was not of sound m
    ind and made a decree denying admittance of the will to probate. On appeal the decree was reversed and probate was directed. Appellant appeals.

    Issue. Whether the decedent had any reasonable basis for believing that his wife was unfaithful to him?

    Held. No. The order should be reversed and a new trial granted.
    Decedent persistently told of his suspicions that his wife was unfaithful to anyone who would listen. That such a belief was an obsession with him was clearly established by a preponderance of the evidence, and there was presented a question of fact as to whether it affected the will he made shortly before his death.

    Dissent. The order should be affirmed. Even assuming the proof demonstrates that the decedent’s belief that his wife was unfaithful was completely groundless, it does not follow from this fact that the decedent suffered from such as delusion as to classify him as lacking the capacity to make a will. The evidence adduced failed to prove that the decedent was suffering from an insane delusion or lacked testamentary capacity.

    Discussion. A will is bad when its dispository provisions were or might have been caused or affected by an insane delusion.


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