Erickson v. Erickson
246 Conn. 359, 716 A.2d 92 (1998)
Erickson was unmarried and had
three daughters. He wrote a will. Two days later he married Dorothy (who
happened to be younger than some of his daughters, wink wink...).
The will gave the residue of
his estate to Dorothy, and if she predeceased then half goes to his three
daughters and half goes to Dorothy's kids. It also gave Dorothy
guardianship and made her the executor.
A few years later Erickson
died. Erickson's daughter Alicia sued to have the will declared invalid.
Alicia argued that, under
Connecticut State law, a will is automatically revoked when the testator gets married, unless with will contains a
marriage contingency clause.
That's called revocation
by operation of law.
The Probate Court found the
will to be valid. Alicia appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed
and decided that the will been revoked
when Erickson got married. Dorothy appealed.
Alicia argued that extrinsic
evidence is not admissible in
determining the decedent's intent. Once should only look at the date of
the will, the date of the marriage certificate, and the date of the death
In general, if the will has
plain language, and does not
contain anything ambiguous, then you cannot introduce extrinsic
evidence to determine meaning.
Dorothy argued that it was
clearly not Erickson's intent to create a will that would be invalid two
The Connecticut Supreme Court
reversed and remanded for trial.
The Connecticut Supreme
Court agreed that, under Connecticut State law, a will that does not have
a contingency clause is revoked
However, the Court found
that the absence of a contingency clause was probably a mistake. If a
jury found that it was a mistake, and that Erickson believed that his
will would remain valid after his marriage, then the will would be valid.
Basically the Court said
that this was the equivalent of a typo (aka a scrivener's error).
The Court felt that since extrinsic
evidence was admissible to show other
things (like there had been fraud or undue influence), then it should
also be admissible to show that there had been a mistake.
Connecticut (as well as most
other States) have gotten rid of laws that revoke wills upon marriage.
If Dorothy had lost and the
will was revoked, Dorothy could have still gotten a share as a pretermitted
A pretermitted spouse is a person who marries someone who already
has executed a will and never bothers to revise it to include the spouse.
They get what they would
get via intestate transfer.
In Connecticut that's
$100k + half the rest of the estate.
In the case of In re Pavlinko's
Estate, the Court came to an opposite
conclusion about scrivener's errors as was found in this