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Law School Case Brief

Kroll v. Nehmer - 348 Md. 616, 705 A.2d 716 (1998)

Rule:

The rule of dependent relative revocation seeks to avoid intestacy where a will has once been duly executed and the acts of the testator in relation to its revocation seem conditional or equivocal. The law disfavors intestacies and requires that, whenever reasonably possible, wills be construed to avoid that result. Courts have made it clear, however, that the law's preference for a testate disposition is always subordinate to the intention of the testator, whether ascertained or presumed.

Facts:

Testator Margaret Binco left four wills, dated 1980, 1985, 1990, and 1994. The parties agreed that the 1980, 1990, and 1994 wills were invalid. Appellant, who was testator's brother, contended that the 1985 will was effectively revoked because when testator drew up the 1990 will she wrote on the back of the 1985 will that it was void because a new will had been drawn up. Appellee personal representative argued that the 1985 will had not been effectively revoked. Over appellant’s objection, the Orphans' Court for Baltimore County, apparently applying the doctrine of dependent relative revocation, admitted the 1985 will to probate.

Issue:

Did the lower courts err in applying the doctrine of dependent relative revocation, and in accordingly finding the 1985 will to be valid, even though the testator had written "void" on the back of that will?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The appellate court held that doctrine of dependent relative revocation would never apply where a man has deliberately and intentionally cancelled his will, as in this case, in the entire absence of all accident or mistake, notwithstanding he may, at the time, have intended to make another will. According to the court, it was clear that by writing “void” on the 1985 will, Binco intended to revoke that will. As such, the judgment of the lower courts was reversed.

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