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TAWNEY v. LONG.
Jake whate. He theness to attend thim at Ramthat time of him to m
The plaintiff gave evidence in rebuttal. He testified amongst other things, speaking of the proceedings against decedent for the maintenance of his wife.....“ We came back on the 20th. Mr. Wills prepared the papers; we came out to the office. Mr. Bowman paid from 1st of April to 1st of November the allowance, and the costs were not paid. After that Bowman called me back into the office and told me he had made up his mind to make a will. He always thought he might give Jake something. He told me the way he was fixed he did not know what to do about it. He asked me what he ought to do about it. I told him if he wanted to give Jake something he could make it so that his debts and funeral expenses should be paid first, and then he could give Jake whatever he had a mind to; if nothing was left, there would be no harm done. He then went over into the prothonotary's office. He told me if I had any business to attend to I should do it and meet him at Mr. Ramer's hotel. I left then and met him at Ramer's hotel about two hours after. Then we started home. I did not, at that time or at any other time, ask him to make a will in my favor. I never asked him to make a will at all. On the way home he handed me the will to take care of. He told me I should keep it, and he wanted me to take care of him, and he supposed if there was anything left I would get it. It was in an envelope, not sealed.”
On cross-examination plaintiff testified: “ John Snyder and I had a conversation outside of the court-house about the trouble the old man had about his suit, and he seemed to be very much confused, and then I said in answer to Snyder, who said he was not fit to make a will, that he was not. Mr. Snyder broached the subject to me. Mr. Snyder and I met on the court-house steps, and he said to me that this thing, meaning the suit, seemed to trouble the old man uncommon. I replied that it did, and that his mind was much confused or out of fix. Mr. Snyder then said if the old man would want to make a will he did not believe it would stand. I told him I thought not. We spoke in reference to his condition that day. I did not say to Michael Deener, I told the old man to give Jake $200. The day before we came to town, I had a conversation with the old man about making the will. He told me in front of his room he had been thinking about making a will and fixing his things; he did not know whether he could make a will or not; that if he got like old Mr. Slagle his property might not reach to keep him. I told him if I was in his place I would take the good of what I had while I lived, and if there was anything left it was his own and he could do with it as he pleased."....
The foregoing is all the evidence which bears upon the question of undue influence by the plaintiff upon the decedent in connection with his will.
The plaintiff's sixth point and its answer were:
Point : “ The defendants have given no sufficient evidence to sustain their allegation that the will was obtained by duress, fraud, imposition, or undue influence, and therefore the jury cannot find in favor of the defendants on these issues.”
Answer: “ There has no evidence been given in this case to prove that the alleged will of the testator was made under duress or by fraud or imposition, but whether it was obtained by undue influence is a matter submitted by the court to the jury under the evidence given in this case, Vol. II.)
TAWNEY v. Long.
and the instructions of the court as to what in law will constitute undue influence sufficient to destroy the validity of a testamentary instrument."
The defendants' fourth and sixth points and their answers were:
4th. “In ordinary cases the undue influence necessary to invalidate a will is a constraint operating upon the testator at the time of the testamentary act, which destroys free agency ; but less influence is required to control the mind of a testator and avoid a will, when the testator is enfeebled in mind, and very aged and infirm, than is required to control the will of one of mental vigor. And if the jury believe the testator was very aged and infirm, and enfeebled in mind, and that John E. Tawney, no relation by blood to testator, importuned him to make a will and leave all his property to him, and was his confidential agent and conducted his business for him, and encouraged him in his conduct towards his wife, and controlled the old man, his papers, and effects, shortly before the alleged will was made, and brought him to the attorney where the will was written, and the principal part of the estate is devised to him, this raises a presumption of undue influence, and direct proof of it at the time of the execution of the will is not required to render the will invalid.”
Answer : “ If the facts are as stated in the point, they are circumstances that are to be taken into consideration by the jury in considering the question of undue influence, but alone do not raise a conclusive presumption of undue influence."
6th. “Where the party to be benefited by the will has a controlling agency in procuring its formal execution, it is universally regarded as a very suspicious circumstance, and one requiring the fullest explanation.”
Answer: “ This is not correct, but is to be considered as a circumstance amongst others tending to prove undue influence.”
The court charged:
“ This case is an issue directed by the register's court to the court of common pleas of Adams County, to try whether or not a certain instrument in writing, alleged to be the last will and testament of John Bowman, deceased, late of this county, is his will or not. It is contended that Mr. Bowman, from age and infirmity and weakness of mind, had not the capacity to make a will at the time he signed the instrument in question ; that the instrument asked to be established was obtained by duress, fraud, imposition, and undue influence, and that the testator was under an insane delusion as regards the relations existing between his wife and son-in-law, Henry Long, one of the defendants.
"Before we say anything about the facts of this case, we will state to you our views of the law relating to testamentary capacity and what is required to constitute an ability to make a valid last will and testament. A disposing mind and memory is one in which the testator is proved to have had, at the time of executing the will, a full and intelligent knowledge and understanding of the act he is engaged in, a full knowledge of the property he possessed, and an intelligent perception and understanding of the disposition he desires to make of it, and the persons he wishes to be beneficiaries of his will and the recipients of his bounty. His mind and memory may be impaired by age or disease, but if enough intellect remains to fill the requirements above stated, advanced age and infirmity of body, or impairment of the original mental force, will not Vol. II.]
Tawney v. Long.
incapacitate a man from making a valid disposition of his property by a testamentary instrument.
“By law every person has the right to dispose of his or her property as he or she thinks best, if they are of proper age and disposing mind and memory; and it is not so much the disposition that is made, as the fact that it was freely and voluntarily done, which constitutes the inquiry, in cases in which it is contended the will was procured by undue influence. There can be no invalidation of a will for undue influence, if the party is a free agent; if he has a will to act, and an ability to act in the matter as he desires and pleases, and does so act. The undue influence which will invalidate a will, is such as destroys the testator's free agency, and prevents him from making any other disposition of his property than that which the person who exercises the control over him chooses to dictate. The influence must be operative at the time the will is made, and must be the effect of, and be produced by, undue influence. Solicitations to make a will, persuasions to make a will in a particular way, will not constitute undue influence, so long as the party making it remains a free agent and acts as he desires to act in the matter.
“A man may be of sound mind in regard to his dealings in general, but may be under an insane delusion, and whenever it appears that the will was the direct offspring of the partial insanity or monomania under which the testator was laboring at the very time the will was made, that it was the moving cause of the disposition, and that if it had not existed the will would have been different, it ought to be considered as no will, although the general capacity of the testator may be unimpeached.
“ The wife and children of a man are the natural objects of his affections, and where they are disinherited by a husband and a father, when he comes to dispose of his estate, the reasons for doing so are a proper subject to enter into the consideration of a jury, in considering a case like the present, and any person will naturally inquire, Why was this thing done? Was the testator under an insane delusion, or has some powerful cause induced him thus to act ?
“ If a monomaniacal delusion is unalterably entertained by a testator against a wife or a daughter, who otherwise would have been his legatee or devisee, and who would seem to be the natural objects of a man's regard when he came to make a final disposition of his estate; and such delusion is shown to have been the operating motive which excluded them; and if the supposed act or misoonduct on the part of the wife or child, or both, had no existence in fact, and was a creature of the diseased imagination of the testator, and the will was engendered by this delusion and was its offspring, and made under its influence operating at the time and in the testamentary act; if, in short, the will was dictated by the delusion, it cannot be sustained as a last will and testament, because it is the production of a mind incapable of correct reasoning as to the object of his bounty and the character of his wife and children, and their relations towards himself.” ....
The court then referred to the evidence and continued :
[" As regards the undue influence said to be exercised by Mr. John E. Tawney over the testator, you have heard the testimony on both sides of the question, as also the evidence of acts of misconduct and disrespect towards Mr. Bowman by his daughter and her husband, and on the whole TAWNEY v. LONG.
of the evidence and the law as stated to you by the court, you will decide the question of undue influence — remembering that it must be operative at the time the will was made, and was the cause of the will ; and without the operation of the undue influence, a different disposition of the testator's property would have been made; and that the undue influence prevented it.]
“ The leading point in this case seems to me to be whether the testator, at the time he made his will, was laboring under an insane delusion as regards the relations that existed between his wife and son-in-law, Henry Long, and Mr. Long's conduct in relation to it.” ....
After again referring to the evidence, the court said:
“ From the testimony of Mr. Deatrich, that of Moses Hartman, and that of the defendants, it is contended that the will was made under the insane delusion that the wife of the testator, a woman over eighty years of age, and who had lived with the testator for perhaps half a century, was the paramour of his son-in-law, Henry Long, one of the defendants. If the testator, at the time he made the will in question, without any foundation to rest it upon, labored under the idea that such a state of facts existed, it was a most monstrous assumption, and could only be the creation of an unsound mind ; and any testamentary disposition made under the influence of such a delusion is not worth the paper it is written upon; and ought not to be established as a last will and testament.
“ The jury will then inquire, Was the paper in question the offspring of such an insane delusion ? And, in determining the question, they will ascertain, from the evidence, whether or not such a delusion existed. ....
" If the jury find, from the evidence, that Mr. Bowman labored under the insane delusion that his wife, over eighty years of age, had illicit intercourse with her son-in-law, and Mr. Long allowed it, or did not discourage it; and, under the influence of this insane delusion, it operated upon him at the moment he made the will; and it induced him to disinherit his only daughter and child, and give nothing to his wife; the will ought not to be sustained, and your verdict ought to be for the defendants.” ....
The verdict was for the defendants.
1, 2. Admitting of evidence of declarations of the decedent to Mr. and Mrs. Long, as to plaintiff's importunity with decedent to make a will.
3. The answer to plaintiff's sixth point.
R. G. McCreary, for plaintiff in error. The declarations of testator may be admissible to show his condition of mind, but not as evidence of the facts declared or stated, unless part of the res gestae. Greenleaf Ev. sect. 108; Jarman on Wills, 77. The declarations proved do not tend to show undue influence operative at the date of the will. The testimony of Henry Long related to a time eighteen months before the will was made, and that of Hannah Long six months before. Eckert v. Flowry, 7 Wright, 46; McMahon v. Ryan, 8 Harris, 329; Jarinan on Wills, 37, 41; Thompson v. Kyner, 15 P. F. Smith, 368; Moritz v. Brough, 16 S. &. R. 403. They proved, at most, only persuasion or importunity, which, when established, do not constitute undue influence such as would avoid a will. Miller
V. Miller, 3 S. & R. 267. The statements, taken altogether, show that the importunity had no effect on testator, and no conclusion of undue influence could be legitimately drawn from them. Evans v. Mengel, 1 Barr, 68; Haines v. Stouffer, 10 Ib. 363.
There is no other testimony in the case tending to sustain the allegation, and it is distinctly disproved by the plaintiff. It is error to permit the jury to pass upon a matter of which there is no evidence, or to base a verdict on circumstances which do not justify their conclusion. Switland v. Holgate, 8 Watts, 385 ; Sartwell v. Wilcox, 8 Harris, 117; Kelly v. Kauffman, 6 Ib. 351; Evans v. Mengel, 6 Watts, 72; Urkett v. Coryell, 5 W. & S. 85.
W. A. Duncan, for defendants in error. The decedent's declarations were admissible as circumstances tending to show undue influence. Rambler v. Tryon, 7 S. & R. 90; and, although the acts had occurred a length of time previously to the execution of the will. Reeme v. Parthemere, 8 Barr, 460; McTaggart v. Thompson, 2 Harris, 153; Watterman v. Whitney, 5 N. Y. 165; 1 Redfield on Wills, 115, 504, 509; Titlow v. Titlow, 4 P. F. Smith, 221. As to the answers to the points he cited, Boyd v. Boyd, 16 P. F. Smith, 294. As to the sixth error, Eckert v. Flowry, 7 Wright, 46; Thompson v. Kuner, 15 P. F. Smith, 368; 1 Jarman on Wills; 1 Redfield on Wills, 481; Zimmerman v. Zimmerman, 11 Harris, 378; Dean v. Negley, 5 Wright, 312.
Mr. Justice GORDON delivered the opinion of the court, October 12, 1874.
It is quite probable that in October, 1871, the mind of John Bowman was so unsound as to be incapable of properly disposing of his estate by will. At all events there was evidence thereof sufficient to submit to a jury. On this branch of the case the ruling of the court was strictly correct. Not so, however, on that which relates to the question of undue influence, as an operative cause affecting the old man in the disposition of his property.
The evidence offered for this purpose was wholly insufficient, and should have been rejected.
In treating of this branch of the case, we must treat of it as a distinct issue, for if it be found that the testator was of unsound mind, then the question is determined against the will, and we proceed no further ; but if on the other hand this question be determined in favor of the testator's testamentary capacity, then, and then only, do we consider the proposition involving the subject of undue influence.
However, then, the fact may be, and that fact is hereafter to be determined by a jury, we must, for the present purpose, treat the case as though the testator's insanity were proyed. What then is there in the evidence to show that John E. Tawney improperly influenced John Bowman in the disposition of his property? That he treated the old man, who by marriage was his uncle, with kindness; that he permitted him to remain at his house; that he bailed him and assisted him when sued by his wife and son-in-law, indicates but ordinary acts of friendship, towards a frail old man, rendered necessary from the very circumstances thrown around him by the defendants themselves, but in nothing does it exhibit that corrupt and unlawful influence which amounts to constraint, and