Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Philip Pugsley Will and Probate, Part 4

As we start the final part of the case, the Court is still discussing Sawyer’s Heirs v. Sawyer. Even if you are not too interested in the Pugsley case, the next to the last paragraph is still worth reading ("In this case, as appears from the record..."). During the next week, we will look at the coverage of the case in the newspaper and then look at the case in its historical context.

Mr. Justice Redfield, delivering the opinion of the court, said: “The exceptions claimed in the present case are, first, on the ground of the pension which the widow obtained, as such, upon the decease of her husband. This is not different, in principle, from her being possessed of ability to maintain herself in any other mode, so as not to require assistance from the estate. And indeed the general ability of the appellee, or the widow in this case, from her living with her father, and the wealth of the family, and the very great improbability of his making any personal claim against his daughter for her board, was also alluded to in the argument, and is stated in the case, and seems to us to come fairly under consideration in the same connection. But we are not prepared to say that any such exception can fairly be ingrafted upon the statute. If it had been the purpose of the Legislature to allow maintenance only in the case of such widow [sic] and children as were without the means of subsistence in any other mode, it is difficult to conjecture how it occurred that the provision should have been expressed in the general and unlimited manner it here is. It is incomprehensible that, if the provision were intended only for the indigent and necessitous, it should have been made general. It is at all events, sufficient for us that, the provision being general, it must be allowed to have a general application.” 1 Woerner, Am. Law Adm. 77-83, 87, 88; Griesemer v. Boyer & Rex, 13 Wash. 171, 43 Pac. 17; In re Welch's Estate, 106 Cal. 427, 39 Pac. 805; Strawn v. Strawn, 53 Ill. 263; Cheney v. Cheney, 73 Ga. 66; Brown v. Hodgdon, 31 Me. 65.

     In this case, as appears from the record, the widow is about 75 years old, and all the children and legatees are over the age of maturity—the oldest one being about 51 years old—and there is nothing to show that they are not all able to support themselves. The appraised value of the estate is over $50,000—savings of a lifetime, which this aged wife and mother assisted in accumulating, doubtless in the hope of having ample in her old days for her support and maintenance. Under the will, however, this wife of more than half a century found the provision for her so meager that she chose to renounce it and rely upon the mercy of the law of inheritance, and, as a result, received, the respondents say, for her portion, real estate of the value of $4,200; and when, in addition to this paltry sum, the aged wife and mother comes into court and asks for but a reasonable allowance out of her own savings for her support during administration, she is met with resistance, on legal technicalities without merit, and a refusal. There seems to be nothing in the record to justify this. In our judgment, this is a case in which the circumstances warrant a liberal allowance for the support of the widow during the whole time of administration.

     The judgment is reversed, with costs, and the cause remanded, with directions to the court below to set aside the order refusing an allowance, and proceed in accordance herewith. It is so ordered.

BASKIN, C. J., and McCARTY, J. concur.

Thank you to a reader for sending the actual legal citation for this case:

In re Pugsley’s Estate, 76 P. 560, 27 Utah 489 (Utah Sup. Ct., 1904)

And this is my source for the case, although it is also available in other collections:

The Pacific Reporter, Vol. 76 pp 560-63. (1904.)

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