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Johnson v. Johnson

Supreme Court of Oklahoma
279 P.2d 928 (1954)


Facts

Dexter G. Johnson was an attorney who, as part of his practice had prepared many properly executed wills. After his death, a document was offered for probate consisting of three typewritten paragraphs that were not signed, dated or attested, but were followed by a few sentences in Johnson’s handwriting that were dated and signed by Johnson. One handwritten sentence stated that Johnson’s brother, James, should receive only ten dollars, and another stated, “This will shall be complete unless hereafter altered, changed or rewritten.” The County Court of Oklahoma denied probate, and the District Court of Oklahoma County held a de novo trial which included the testimony of Jack G. Wiggins, Johnson’s insurance counselor, and Lowell M. Wickham Johnson’s rental agent. Wiggins testified that Johnson had told him he was working on his will and explained the general disposition of his property. Wickham testified that, while visiting Johnson’s office, Johnson had shown him the typewritten portions of the document offered for probate, saying it was his will and Johnson asked Wickham to witness this will. However, they failed to execute the will at that time. When Wickham discussed the will with Johnson later, Johnson told him that he had changed his will by executing a codicil, so he no longer needed Wickham to witness the will. Proponents of the will (defendants) argued that the typewritten paragraphs constituted an unexecuted will and the handwritten portion constituted a valid holographic codicil. Those objecting to the will (plaintiffs) argued that the handwritten portion was just a continuation of the typewritten portion because the typewritten portion could not be a will without being dated, signed and attested, and when considered together, the entire document was invalid because it lacked the signatures of attesting witnesses. The District Court of Oklahoma County affirmed the county court’s denial of probate and the proponents of the will appealed to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

Concurrence (Corn, J.)

Dissent (Halley, C.J.)

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