In re Pavlinko's Estate
394 Pa. 564, 148 A.2d 528 (1959)
Vasil and Hellen Pavlinko both
wrote wills. Due to an error at the attorney's office, Vasil signed
Hellen's will and Hellen signed Vasil's will.
No one seemed to notice,
probably because neither spoke English very well.
The attorney testified that
they had both intended to sign their wills and that the same witnesses
had witnessed them both sign.
Hellen died and for some
reason no one bothered presenting her will for probate.
Most likely because all the
property was in Vasil's name anyway.
A few years later, Vasil died.
Hellen's brother Elias brought forth Hellen's will and offered it for
probate as Vasil's will.
Elias was a beneficiary in
The Register of Wills refused
to probate the will. Elias appealed.
The will signed by Vasil
wasn't valid because it wasn't his will, and Vasil's will wasn't valid
because it wasn't signed by him.
There was no ambiguity.
Both wills were very clear in their meaning of words, so you couldn't
look at Hellen's will from the right angle and squint and pretend it was
actually Vasil's will with some errors in it.
The Probate Court affirmed.
The Probate Court agreed
that, according to Statute, a will must be properly signed in order to be
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court
The Pennsylvania Supreme
Court looked to numerous other cases involving improperly signed wills.
In all cases, the will was not valid unless it met the Statutory letter
of the law.
Although the Court agreed
that a mistake had been made, they refused to make an exception.
In a dissent it was argued
that since the facts were clear, and since the majority declared the
situation to be 'unfortunate', there should be some way at equity to
probate the wills. The intention of the testators was clear an unambiguous.
Restatement of Wills § 12.1 allows for mistakes to be reversed if there is clear
and convincing evidence.
See the case of Erickson v.
Erickson, which came to the opposite