Admission of Extrinsic Evidence Regarding An Unambiguous Will
In In re Estate of Kelly, 473 Pa. 48, 373 A.2d 744 (1977), the decedent bequeathed to his wife "that share of my estate to which she would be entitled" under Pennsylvania's intestacy laws. Kelly, 473 Pa. at 50, 373 A.2d at 745-746.
A residuary clause granted the remainder of the estate to Mary Hay. Id. at 50, 373 A.2d at 746.
Under Pennsylvania's intestacy laws, the decedent's wife was entitled to the entire estate because the decedent left no children, siblings, nieces, nephews, grandparents, aunts, or uncles. Id. at 51, 373 A.2d at 746.
Ms. Hay was the decedent's cousin and this fact did not affect the wife's entitlement to the entire estate. Id.
The Orphans' Court found the will ambiguous because the decedent failed to describe Ms. Hay's relationship to the decedent. Id.
As such, the court held a hearing, at which the scrivener testified that the decedent told him that Mary Hay was his aunt. Id.
Our Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Orphans' Court should not have admitted extrinsic evidence because the will was unambiguous the Supreme Court found that the failure to identify Mary Hay in the will did not create an ambiguity.
Rather, it was undisputed that Mary Hay was a first cousin and that her status as such did not affect the wife's intestate share:
Under these circumstances, it was unnecessary to admit any extrinsic evidence to determine the widow's share.
Moreover, even if it had been necessary to admit and consider extrinsic evidence as to what relatives survived the testator in order to ascertain the widow's share, it does not follow that the door was open for the use of extrinsic evidence for a different purpose.
Evidence as to what persons survived the testator is entirely different from evidence to show that the testator intended a disposition other than that plainly provided in the will. Id.