By Jack Strauss
Roger the lodger was as an old codger. When he was alive, if he couldn’t say something bad about a person, he didn’t say anything at all. In his will, however, he was less guarded. He libeled almost everyone he knew and even some people he didn’t know. Consequently, when the executor of his estate read the bombastic document, his hair stood on edge and he made a beeline to the courthouse where he pleaded with the clerk of the court to permit him to omit Roger’s derogatory comments from the will.
“If permission isn’t granted”, he explained, “all the money in the estate will have to be paid out in lawsuits. There won’t be enough money left for Roger’s beneficiaries to buy a glass of water.”
“Sorry” was the answer. “When a person makes a will, it can’t be changed. Roger’s last words must remain his last words.”
Certain that Roger’s last words would be a dead giveaway ... to all those he libeled leaving nothing for his named beneficiaries, the executor of Roger’s estate instituted a court proceeding to have the defamatory statements excluded from Roger’s will.
IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE, would you permit the removal of Roger’s crusty last words from his will?
THIS IS HOW THE JUDGE RULED: Yes! The judge permitted the libelous portions of Roger’s will to be deleted with the original will impounded for inspection only upon Court order where the deleted portions of the will would have no bearing upon the disposition of Roger’s assets.
(Based upon a 1960 Pennsylvania District Court Decision)
Jack Strauss, a retired New York City trial attorney who now resides in Berea, wrote a syndicated column for 36 years called, “What’s the Law?” It appeared in papers coast to coast, including the Pittsburgh Press, the Los Angeles Examiner, the Hartford Times, the Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Daily News, among many others. It appears here with his permission.