Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Extrinsic Evidence and Patent Ambiguities

In In re Estate of Mousel, the testator, Opal, left a will with a survivorship clause, stating “in the event that my husband and I meet simultaneous death in an accident or if he does not survive me for 60 days, I direct that the provisions for him shall lapse and my estate shall pass under [the] residuary estate,” which was left to the children of her brother George. In a separate provision of the will, Opal left some ranch real estate to the relatives of her husband George. When her husband failed to survive her by 60 days, there was a patent ambiguity as to whether her entire estate, including certain ranch real estate, should pass to her brother’s children. Looking only at the language in the will, the trial court “concluded that Opal intended that the ranch real estate was to pass to George's relatives and that the balance of her estate was to pass to Orville's children.” The appellate court affirmed, saying that consideration of any evidence outside of the will is prohibited when considering the testator’s intent.


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