Outline- Jess - 18 pg main points

Outline- Jess - 18 pg main points - MISTAKEN OR AMBIGUOUS...

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MISTAKEN OR AMBIGUOUS LANGUAGE IN WILLS Most jurisdictions still follow two rules that bar the admission of extrinsic evidence. The first is the plain meaning or no extrinsic evidence rule , which says that extrinsic evidence can be admitted to resolve some uncertainties, but that the plain meaning of the words of the will cannot be disturbed by evidence that another meaning was intended. The second rule is the no reformation rule , which is an equitable remedy that would correct a mistaken term in the will to reflect what the testator intended the will to say. In Mahoney v. Grainger , there was an issue as to whom the testatrix intended to mean when she wrote “heirs at law” in her will. The court ruled that only where the testamentary language is unclear in its application to the facts can extrinsic evidence be introduced. Where there is no doubt about the property bequeathed or the identity of the beneficiary, extrinsic evidence cannot be used. Here there was no doubt as to who the “heir at law” of the testatrix was. There are more exceptions however. First is the personal usage exception . If extrinsic evidence shows that a testator always referred to a person in an idiosyncratic manner, then evidence is permissible to show that the testator meant someone else other than he person with the legal name of the legatee. For example, in Moseley v. Goodman , Mrs. Lenore Moseley claimed the estate even though the testator had never met her. The testator called Lillian Trimble “Mrs. Moseley,” even though she was not the wife of Mr. Moseley and extrinsic evidence was allowed to show that the testator meant Lillian Trimble. There is also the patent ambiguity exception. A patent ambiguity is an ambiguity that appears on the face of a will. For example, in Succession of Neff , one clause in T’s will left “the disposable portion of my estate” to T’s daughter A, while the very next clause left “my entire estate” to T’s daughters A and B. Subotnik says that the general rule is that patent ambiguities cannot be cleared up by going outside the will. That is to say, the disposition fails and it passes into the residuary. Latent ambiguity is an ambiguity that doesn’t appear on the face of the will but manifests itself when the terms of the will are applied to the testator’s property or designated beneficiaries. There are usually 2 types: (1) equivocation, where a will clearly describes a person or thing and two or more persons or things exist that perfectly fit that description. An example of this would be a devise to “my niece Alicia” when the testator has 2 nieces named Alicia and (2) when no person or thing exactly fits the description but 2 or more persons or things partially fit. An example of this is Ihl v. Oetting
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This note was uploaded on 04/17/2008 for the course LAW ? taught by Professor Harmon during the Spring '08 term at Touro NY.

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Outline- Jess - 18 pg main points - MISTAKEN OR AMBIGUOUS...

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