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In re Snide

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Brief Fact Summary. Harvey and Rose Snide intended to execute mutual wills but by mistake, Harvey Snide signed his wife’s will and she signed his. Rose Snide offered the will for probate and the lower court admitted the will. The Appellate court reversed.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Where identical mutual wills are simultaneously executed with statutory finality, one of them may be admitted to probate even though both parties mistakenly signed the others will.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Regard is to be given to the special opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses who appeared before it.

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Facts. Harvey and Rose Snide intended to execute mutual wills at a will execution ceremony. Both mistakenly signed each other’s will. The wills were identical except as to the names of the donors and beneficiaries on the wills. Some of Harvey Snide’s descendants objected to the will. The lower court admitted the will to probate and the Circuit Court reversed the decision.

Issue. Whether a will can be admitted to probate it does not have the testator’s signature if the testator mistakenly signed another’s will where he and another intended to execute mutual wills at the same will execution ceremony.

Held. Yes. One of two mutual wills that are simultaneously executed according to statutory formality may be admitted to probate even though both parties mistakenly signed the other’s will. Because both wills have the same attesting witnesses, and were signed at the same time, there is no risk of fraud or mistake.

Dissent. In most cases, relief has been denied in cases involving mutual wills that are mistakenly signed by the wrong testator. Relief was only granted in a few cases where the court believed that great frustration would occur if the obvious mistake was not corrected.

Discussion. Though the will did not have the testator’s own signature, he intended to execute the will as if it were hid own. Because the two wills were identical and had the same witnesses, there is no risk of fraud or undue influence. The testator’s intent is present along with his awareness of the seriousness of the event. Therefore the will should be admitted to probate.

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