In re Pavlinko’s Estate
394 Pa. 564, 148 A.2d 528 (1959)

  • Vasil and Hellen Pavlinko both wrote wills. Due to an error at the attorney’s office, Vasil signed Hellen’s will and Hellen signed Vasil’s will.
    • No one seemed to notice, probably because neither spoke English very well.
    • The attorney testified that they had both intended to sign their wills and that the same witnesses had witnessed them both sign.
  • Hellen died and for some reason no one bothered presenting her will for probate.
    • Most likely because all the property was in Vasil’s name anyway.
  • A few years later, Vasil died. Hellen’s brother Elias brought forth Hellen’s will and offered it for probate as Vasil’s will.
    • Elias was a beneficiary in Hellen’s will
  • The Register of Wills refused to probate the will. Elias appealed.
    • The will signed by Vasil wasn’t valid because it wasn’t his will, and Vasil’s will wasn’t valid because it wasn’t signed by him.
    • There was no ambiguity. Both wills were very clear in their meaning of words, so you couldn’t look at Hellen’s will from the right angle and squint and pretend it was actually Vasil’s will with some errors in it.
  • The Probate Court affirmed. Elias appealed.
    • The Probate Court agreed that, according to Statute, a will must be properly signed in order to be valid.
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court looked to numerous other cases involving improperly signed wills. In all cases, the will was not valid unless it met the Statutory letter of the law.
    • Although the Court agreed that a mistake had been made, they refused to make an exception.
  • In a dissent it was argued that since the facts were clear, and since the majority declared the situation to be ‘unfortunate’, there should be some way at equity to probate the wills. The intention of the testators was clear an unambiguous.
  • Restatement of Wills § 12.1 allows for mistakes to be reversed if there is clear and convincing evidence.
  • See the case of Erickson v. Erickson, which came to the opposite conclusion.