Lawson v. Morrison (1792) – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

In Lawson v. Morrison (1792), 2 U.S. 286, testatrix executed her will in 1775.

She wrote a later will in 1779.

Both wills were kept in the possession of a third person.

At the death of testatrix the later will of 1779 was not found, although the will of 1775 remained intact. The contents of the will of 1779 were not proven and it was not established that it had revoked the former one. The syllabus concisely states:

"The fact of the execution of a second will, not found at the decease of the testator, and the contents of which are not shown, is not, ipso facto, the revocation of a former one; to have that effect, its existence must be shown, at the death of the testator, or that he cancelled the latter will, with an intent to die intestate."

McKEAN, the Chief Justice, wrote (page 290):

"Here is a good subsisting Will properly attested: There is no way to defeat it, but by proving it was revoked by another will, subsisting at the death of the Testatrix, or that she cancelled the latter Will, so revoking all former ones, with a mind to die intestate"

It will thus be noted that as early as 1792 the Supreme Court stated that upon proving that a later will revoked the former one, the earlier will was not revived where the testator was shown to have an intent to die intestate.