Does a Son Become An Alternate Successor If Initial Legatee (Wife) Dies Before His Father ?
In Engelthaler v. Engelthaler, 196 Ill. 230, 63 N.E. 669 (1902), an attorney drafted a father's will to leave his home to his wife on his death, but his wife subsequently predeceased him; on the father's death, his son sought for the will to be construed so that the home would pass exclusively to him, as opposed to having to share it with other heirs under intestate succession. Engelthaler, 196 Ill. at 233, 63 N.E. at 670.
The son argued that his father could not communicate well with his attorney, due to his limited fluency in English, and that both his father and the attorney assumed that a clause had been written naming the son as an alternate legatee. Engelthaler, 196 Ill. at 233, 63 N.E. at 670.
Our supreme court emphasized that what the appellant asked the court to do was to use parol evidence to reform the will by filling a "total blank" left in the will by the failure to provide for an alternate legatee in the event the initial legatee predeceased the testator. Engelthaler, 196 Ill. at 234-35, 63 N.E. at 670-71.
The Engelthaler court observed that, while extrinsic evidence could be used to explain latent ambiguities, it could not do so in that case as the ambiguity was patent, appearing on the face of the will itself. Engelthaler, 196 Ill. at 234, 63 N.E. at 670.