In re Pavlinko’s Estate
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
148 A.2d 528 (1959)
Vasil and Hellen Pavlinko, non-native English speakers, hired an attorney who spoke their native language to draft their wills. The attorney drafted complimentary wills in which each spouse left their estate to the surviving spouse and to the same residuary beneficiary, Hellen’s brother, Elias Martin (proponent), upon the death of the surviving spouse. However, when executing the wills, Vasil and Hellen inadvertently signed each other’s wills, which were then witnessed and notarized by their attorney and his secretary, neither of whom noticed the error. Hellen predeceased Vasil in 1951 but her will (bearing Vasil’s signature) was not offered for probate. After Vasil’s death in 1957, Martin offered Hellen’s will, signed by Vasil, for probate as Vasil’s will. The will offered for probate with Vasil’s signature devised the residuary estate to “my husband, Vasil Pavlinko” unless he predeceased in which case the residuary estate was devised to “my brother, Elias Martin.” The Register of Wills denied probate and the Orphan’s Court affirmed the decision to deny probate. Martin appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Bell, J.)
Dissent (Musmanno, J.)
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