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Estate of Villwock

Wisconsin Court of Appeals
418 N.W.2d 1 (1987)


Facts

Roy and June Villwock, a married couple, were in a car accident together. Roy’s heart and lungs failed in the ambulance during transport to a hospital. Roy and June were kept alive by CPR for about an hour, but June was eventually pronounced dead. Roy was pronounced dead minutes after June. A physician that treated Roy testified at a probate hearing that Roy’s heart and lung failure in the ambulance were irreversible. Roy’s will left his estate to June without a contingency in the event that June predeceased Roy. June’s will left her estate to her family members. Roy and June had no children together, but Roy had a daughter, Mary Hintz, from a previous marriage. Hintz (plaintiff) argued that Roy and June died simultaneously, and that Roy’s estate should be distributed according to the Simultaneous Death Act. Section 851.55 of the statutes, which is Wisconsin’s version of the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act, provides the method for distributing a decedent’s estate where distribution depends on priority of death and there is not sufficient evidence that the decedent and beneficiary have died otherwise than simultaneously. Under § 146.71 of the statutes, which is Wisconsin’s version of the Uniform Determination of Death Act, a person who suffers irreversible heart and lung failure is considered dead. The trial court found that Roy died before June, and that Roy’s estate therefore passed to June, and that June’s estate then passed to June’s heirs. Hintz appealed, arguing that the physician’s trial testimony conflicted with the official pronouncement of Roy’s death, and that there was insufficient evidence to show that Roy and June died otherwise than simultaneously.

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Holding and Reasoning (LaRocque, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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