June 16, 2008
The "Pillow Note"
The Supreme Court of South Dakota decided an interesting case concerning the validity of a holographic codicil to a decedent's will. The document was found in the decedent's pillow and became known as the "pillow note." The issue related to 70 acres of hunting land originally left to three grandsons. The pillow note changed the devise to benefit "all interested grandkids." Before her death, the decedent made clear her desire to effectuate the change. She had made an appointment with her lawyer over Thanksgiving, presumably to do so. All agree she had testamentary capacity. Unfortunately, she did not live to keep the appointment.
She "knew that her death was approaching" and even wrote a check to pay for her funeral on the morning she died. She passed away in her doctor's office during a routine appointment on November 9. Apparently in October, she had written the rather moving note that expressed her intent to change the provision. She placed the note in her pillow and put a yellow stick-it note in Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrates Grandmothers, a book that her daughter had spent time reading to her. The note said "check in my pillow."
The court held that the pillow note fulfilled the formal requirements for a holographic will. The case was remanded with instructions that the pillow note be admitted and "interpreted to devise the 70-acre parcel to [the decedent's] seven children equally." (Mike Frisch)
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