In re Kimmel's Estate
278 Pa. 435, 123 A. 405 (1924)
Kimmel wrote a letter to his
kids George and Irvin, it said, "...if enny thing (sic) happens all
the scock (sic) money in the 3 Bank liberty lones (sic) Post office stamps
and my home on Horner St. goes to George, Darl & Irvin...signed,
He died suddenly a few hours
after mailing the letter.
George, Darl, and Irvin
stepped forward and presented the letter to the Orphans' Court as a valid
Other heirs objected to the
document being a will.
The Orphans' Court found that
the document constituted a valid will. The other heirs appealed.
The document was considered
a holographic will.
Holographic wills are informal, handwritten wills. In order to
be a valid holographic will
under the common law, it must have:
A date, a signature, the
intent for it to be a will, and it must be completely in the
handwriting of the decedent.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court
affirmed and found that this was a valid will.
The Court looked to the testamentary
intent of the letter, and found that
it was intended to be a will.
Specifically the words,
"if enny thing happens."
"The difficulty in
ascertaining the writer's intent, arises largely from the fact that he
had little, if any, knowledge of either law, punctuation, or
The Court looked to the
language and found that it could not have possibly meant anything other
than a testamentary gift.
The Court looked to the Wills
Act, which requires that all wills
be signed in order to be enforceable, and decided that Kimmel's will had
He signed it 'Father', as
opposed to using 'Harry A. Kimmel'.
The Court found that the
purpose of the signature requirement was to make sure that the will
wasn't fraudulent. Therefore any signature was acceptable.
Some illiterate people
sign with an 'X'.
The Court found that the intent
to execute was apparent.