Johnson v. Johnson

The Facts

  • Document was on a single sheet of paper w/ 3 typed paragraphs that made numerous bequests and recommended a certain attorney be used to probate the will
  • Not dated, signed or attested to
  • Included handwritten portion at bottom in T’s handwriting that gave T’s brother a nominal $10
  • Handwritten portion was dated Apr 1947
  • T had been an attorney for many years and had written many wills
  • T told his insurance counselor that he was working on a new will in Mar 1947

Procedural History

  • Ps tried to probate “will”
  • P offered various evidence, D offered none
  • TC denied probate to an instrument purporting to be last will and testament of T
  • AC affirmed TC decision

The Issue

1.  Whether the instrument is one complete integrated writing, partly typed and partly handwritten

2.  Whether the instrument is an unexecuted non-holographic to which the handwritten portion is a valid holographic codicil

The Rule

  • A codicil is a supplement to, an addition to or qualification of, an existing will, made by the testator to alter, enlarge, or restrict the provisions of the will, to explain or republish it, or to revoke it and it must be testamentary in character. It need not be called a codicil.

The Holding/Disposition

  1. No
  2. Yes, reversed

Court’s Reasoning

  • D argues that the instrument cannot be divided into two documents because it is a single piece of paper
  • No question the typewritten portion was written by T and no question handwritten portion (HP) was T’s handwriting
  • HP was written, dated and signed by T
  • The fact that HP was written on same piece of paper as the TW does not invalidate the codicil


  • Agrees w/ majority’s decision but emphasizes that while the statutory requirements are there for a reason, the testator’s intent should win out


  • HP is a continuation of TP thus constituting a will not properly executed and one that should not be admitted to probate

Uses “four corners” rule

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