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Thompson v. Royall

    Brief Fact Summary. Lou Bown Kroll attempted to revoke a will and codicil by directing another person to revoke the will by writing on a separate sheet of paper. Kroll signed the documents attempting to revoke the will and codicil. The trial court admitted the documents to probate and Kroll’s heirs at law appeal the verdict.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. To revoke a will other than by creating another duly executed will, the first will must be destroyed by a cutting, tearing, burning, obliterating, or destroying the will. If it is revoked by words that do not quality themselves as a validly executed will, those words must physically come into contact with the words of the will.

    Facts. Lou Bowen Kroll asked Judge Coulling and H.P. Brittain to bring her will and codicil to her home. She told them both in the presence of her attorney to destroy them. Coulling suggested that instead of destroying the will and codicil, Kroll should retain the will and codicil in the event that she decided to execute a new will. Coulling wrote on the back of the manuscript cover to the will the words, “This will null and void and to be only held by H.P. Brittain instead of being destroyed as a memorandum for another will if I desire to make the same. This 19 Sept., 1932.” Crowell then signed the document. The same was written on the back of the codicil except the name S.M.B. Coulling was substituted for H.P. Brittain and signed by Kroll. The trial court admitted the will and codicil and Kroll’s heirs at law appeal the decision.

    Issue.
    Whether a will or codicil is revoked where the testator directs another to write words on a sheet of paper attached to the will or codicil, if the words do not physically come into contact with the words creating the will.

    Whether a will or codicil is revoked where the testator directs another to write words on a sheet of paper that is attached to the will or codicil, but signs the document herself.

    Held.
    No. A will or codicil is not revoked where the testator attaches a paper to a will writing “this will null and void” because it was not executed the way a will is required to be executed.

    No. The will was not revoked because the words “this will null and void” did physically come into contact with the words of the original will, even though the testator wrote words on a separate paper attached to the will that declared the will null and void. Furthermore, the words themselves did not constitute a validly executed will.


    Discussion. A will is not revoked where the testator fails to execute another valid will or attempt in some way to physically obstruct the will by causing words or marks to come into contact with the will or destroy the will itself.


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