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Pangborn v. Union Trust National Bank (In re Estate of Burkhart)

204 So. 2d 737 (1967)

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Pangborn v. Union Trust National Bank (In re Estate of Burkhart)

Florida District Court of Appeal

204 So. 2d 737 (1967)

Facts

John Burkhart executed his current will in October 1959. Burkhart’s will disinherited his relatives and included bequests to several charitable organizations in Morrow County, Ohio. Burkhart had long-standing interests in, and contacts with, Morrow County. Burkhart’s will was drafted by an Ohio lawyer who testified that Burkhart met with him three times, including the execution meeting, and at all times was completely lucid, conversant in the terms of his current and prior wills, and able to explain his property-disposition choices. Burkhart also expressed to the Ohio lawyer that he had problems with his relatives. Acquaintances of Burkhart who interacted with him around the time of the execution of his current will testified he was lucid, neat, and conversationally normal. In February 1960, Burkhart was declared incompetent by reason of cerebral arteriosclerosis with senility. In 1964, Burkhart died, his will was admitted to probate, and letters of administration were issued to Union Trust Company (defendant). A group of Burkhart’s relatives (the relatives) (plaintiffs), who were his closest natural heirs, filed a petition to revoke probate of the current will, arguing Burkhart lacked testamentary capacity when he executed it. At trial, the relatives testified Burkhart showed signs of senility as early as 1956 and provided expert testimony from Dr. Holtzman, who was unacquainted with Burkhart and formed his opinion based on a hypothetical, that Burkhart suffered from senility and lacked testamentary capacity to execute his October 1959 will. However, Holtzman’s testimony did not account for the fact that Burkhart conducted his own affairs, traveled alone, and lived alone up through at least February 1960. Union Trust’s expert similarly issued an opinion off a hypothetical but opined that a person in Burkhart’s condition would likely have lucid moments. The county court denied the relatives’ petition to revoke the probate of the current will, and the relatives appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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