Erickson v. Erickson

The Facts

• T executed will on Sept 1, 1988, at which time he had no wife and 3 daughters
• T’s will left almost everything to D
• T got married to D 2 days later
• T died in Feb 1996

Procedural History

• Will was admitted to probate
• P objected to the marriage contingency
• P filed motion to exclude extrinsic evidence
• TC granted motion, and only allowed the will, the marriage certificate, and the death certificate
• TC found for D
• P appealed

The Issue

Whether TC should have admitted extrinsic evidence regarding T’s intent that his will would not be revoked automatically by his subsequent marriage
Whether T’s will provided for the contingency of his marriage to D

The Rule

• The question of whether a will provides for the contingency of a subsequent marriage must be determined:
o From the language of the will itself and
o Without resort to extrinsic evidence of T’s intent

The Holding / Disposition

• Yes, reversed
• No, reversed

Court’s Reasoning

• No discernible policy difference between a case where will was executed w/ some erroneous belief due to misconduct and a case where a will was executed w/ some erroneous belief based on innocent error
• In each case, extrinsic evidence is required to demonstrate that a will, despite its formally proper execution, substantially misrepresents the true intent of the testator
• Statute of wills does not compel enforcement of testamentary dispositions that a testator never intended to make
• Although signing a will creates a strong presumption that the will accurately represents the intentions of the testator, that presumption is a rebuttable one

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