In re Kimmel’s Estate
278 Pa. 435, 123 A. 405 (1924)

  • Kimmel wrote a letter to his kids George and Irvin, it said, “…if enny thing (sic) happens all the scock (sic) money in the 3 Bank liberty lones (sic) Post office stamps and my home on Horner St. goes to George, Darl & Irvin…signed, Father.”
    • He died suddenly a few hours after mailing the letter.
  • George, Darl, and Irvin stepped forward and presented the letter to the Orphans’ Court as a valid will.
    • Other heirs objected to the document being a will.
  • The Orphans’ Court found that the document constituted a valid will. The other heirs appealed.
    • The document was considered a holographic will.
      • Holographic wills are informal, handwritten wills. In order to be a valid holographic will under the common law, it must have:
        • A date, a signature, the intent for it to be a will, and it must be completely in the handwriting of the decedent.
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed and found that this was a valid will.
    • The Court looked to the testamentary intent of the letter, and found that it was intended to be a will.
      • Specifically the words, “if enny thing happens.”
      • “The difficulty in ascertaining the writer’s intent, arises largely from the fact that he had little, if any, knowledge of either law, punctuation, or grammar.”
      • The Court looked to the language and found that it could not have possibly meant anything other than a testamentary gift.
    • The Court looked to the Wills Act, which requires that all wills be signed in order to be enforceable, and decided that Kimmel’s will had been signed.
      • He signed it ‘Father’, as opposed to using ‘Harry A. Kimmel’.
      • The Court found that the purpose of the signature requirement was to make sure that the will wasn’t fraudulent. Therefore any signature was acceptable.
        • Some illiterate people sign with an ‘X’.
      • The Court found that the intent to execute was apparent.