Stevenson's Executor v. Stevenson et al.

Citation33 Pa. 469
PartiesStevenson's Executor versus Stevenson et al.
Decision Date01 January 1859
CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court

The opinion of the court was delivered by WOODWARD, J.

The sound and disposing mind required by law to constitute testamentary competency, is, perhaps, as well defined and illustrated by what was said in Leech v. Leech, 9 Harris 69, and McMasters v. Blair, 5 Casey 303, as by anything to be found in the books on this much vexed question.

The point submitted on behalf of the plaintiff, was so framed as to be consistent with the doctrine of these cases; and adapted, also, to the particular circumstances of the present case.

The court affirmed the point, and if the learned judge had not given unqualified sanction to the defendant's points, which, in some degree, were irreconcilable with the plaintiff's, there would have been nothing on the record to object to in a court of error; for, whatever might be thought of the verdict, nothing could be done here to correct that. Taking the instructions altogether, which are to be inferred from an affirmance of all the points, we think they were not such as the case demanded, and that the jury were misguided.

Stevenson, the testator, seems to have been a man of strongly marked character — jealous, distrustful, and indulging, at times, groundless prejudices against his kindred; but we see no evidence to justify the inquiry suggested in the defendant's 2d point, touching a mental delusion of six or eight years' standing. During his life, his kinsfolk did not account him a lunatic, nor a victim of any overmastering delusion, for they permitted him to take care of himself, and to conduct his business, without interference or assistance on their part. Nor should we have been likely to hear of any mental delusion, if he had not given his estate to a stranger to his blood. But this was only an exercise of that dominion which the law gave him over his property. His objections to his kindred may have been unreasonable, but his jus disponendi was absolute, if there was mental competence when the will was made. The circumstance that he exercised his rights in such a way as to disappoint the natural expectations of relations, is not sufficient to ground a presumption of mental delusion; else many wills would be overthrown, and men's right to do as they please with their own would be greatly abridged. This right of disposition is one of the strong incentives to accumulate property, and to practise those virtues of industry and frugality which are essential to its accumulation. It is not to be lightly set aside. If the exercise of it contrary to family expectations, is to prove delusion of mind, then it don't exist — there is no such right. Every man, under pain of forfeiting his character for soundness of intellect, is compelled to dispose of his property not as he prefers, but as those would dictate who are called in this case, the "natural objects of his bounty." A man without parents, wife, or children, can scarcely be said to have natural objects of his bounty; and when he has been permitted to go through life attending to his own affairs, and taking good care of his estate, it is too late, after he has made his will and died, for collaterals to discover that for six or eight years his mind had been under a cloud, and that...

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11 cases
  • Chidester's Estate
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • March 28, 1910
    ...219 Pa. 606; Cauffman v. Long, 82 Pa. 72; Ferner v. Byers, 219 Pa. 160; Moyer's Est., 220 Pa. 356; Leech v. Leech, 21 Pa. 67; Stevenson v. Stevenson, 33 Pa. 469. burden of proving undue influence is upon the contestants: Herster v. Herster, 122 Pa. 239; Miller v. Oestrich, 157 Pa. 264; Doug......
  • Hamilton v. Fay
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • April 13, 1925
    ... ... McDonald, 91 Pa. 236; ... Palmer's Est., 219 Pa. 303, 310; see also ... Stevenson's Executor v. Stevenson et al., 33 Pa ... 469, 471, 473 ... True, ... the ... ...
  • In re Fiedler
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • January 5, 2016
    ...and his grave, he meant that his estate should go in a bulk to Grier [who was not in any way related to him].Stevenson's Ex'r v. Stevenson, 33 Pa. 469, 472 (1859). Therefore, we reject O'Rean's suggestion that Decedent's step-grandson Sean and Decedent's granddaughters-in-law could not be c......
  • In re Mark's Estate
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • November 25, 1929
    ...however hold these antipathies, standing alone, to be evidences of a disordered mind, nor do they imply an impaired mentality (Stevenson v. Stevenson, 33 Pa. 469; McGovran's Estate, 185 Pa. 203), and, as the court said: "Whether she was justified in this critical attitude we need not inquir......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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