Lancaster Sunday News front-page headline today:
" Retired county judge challenges late sons’ $500,000-$900,000 bequest to Lancaster Public Library; state Attorney General’s office wants the filing attorney – judge’s son-in-law – off the case."
THE CAST OF CHARACTERS:
The retired judge is Wilson Bucher, now 88 years old. Last July, his son, Thomas Bucher, was found in his apartment in Columbia dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The 59 year old Thomas Bucher had been employed as a supervisor with the Impaired Driver Program of the Adult Probation and Parole Office for Lancaster County Court.
The son-in-law who brought this petition is Steven R. Blair, married to Wilson Bucher’s daughter Christine.
The PA Attorney General’s office, involved to protect the interest of the library which is a public charity, wants Steven Blair removed as counsel because he is a potential witness.
Lancaster County Judge Jay Hoberg has recused himself. The case is being heard by Perry County Judge Joseph Rehkamp.
Thomas Bucher’s will was written by Theodore Brubaker.
The library is represented by Bob Hallinger of Appel & Yost
Lancaster Court of Common Pleas No. 36-2008-1522
According to the The Sunday News, in 1998 Thomas Bucher approached his parents and "said he could not understand how it was that his brother-in-laws could be supporting their families since he had information that they were going to Las Vegas and blowing all their money." This was the "insane delusion" under which Thomas Bucher made the first changes to his will.
In 2002 Thomas Bucher’s aunt, Helen Bucher died. Steven Blair had been her agent under a power of attorney, had written her will and was executor. Apparently, Thomas Bucher was suspicious of Blair’s actions.
Hallinger, representing the library, wrote that Thomas "simply did not trust the involvement of his brother-in-law, attorney Steven R. Blair, in estate planning and/or settlement matters relating to family." "[M]istrust or suspicion of motives and actions of an in-law and an attorney do not rise to the level of an ‘insane delusion’ under Pennsylvania law, regardless of whether there is a factual basis for such mistrust or suspicion."
Partridge-Remick Practice and Procedure in the Orphan’s Court Division Court of Common Pleas of Pennsylvania by Charles W,. Frampton. George T. Bisel Company (1975) (hereinafter Partridge-Remick")Section 4.12, p. 273:
"A man may be of sound mind in regard to his dealings in general, but he may be under an insane delusion,and whenever it appears that the will was a direct offspring of the partial insanity or monomania under which the testator was laboring at the very time the will was made, that it wasthe moving cause of the disposition, and if it had not existed the will would have been different, it ought to be considered no will, although the general capacity of the testator may be unimpeached.45" Footnote 45: "Nelson Estate, 66 York 161."
and from Partridge Remick Cumulative Supplement at §4.12 for p. 273.
"A testatrix may suffer from a delusion and, indeed, there is no requirement that she give any of her property to those she loves or to the relatives that society believes she should love. She can give it in such a way that 99 percent of her fellow citizens believe it is foolish, unjust or outrageous. Such a dispositive scheme does not mean a testatrix suffers from an insane delusion.41,1 Footnote 41.1 Sommerville Est, 406 Pa. 207, 177 A. 2d 496 (1962)
"For a will to be invalidated on the grounds of insane delusion, the evidence must show not merely that testatrix was the victim of an insane delusion, but that she was controlled by the delusion in the making of her will, causing it to be written differently from what it otherwise would have been. 42.1 Footnote 42.1 Dunross Will, 395 Pa. 492, 150 A. 2d 710 (1983); Agostini Est., 311 Pa. Super, 457 A. 2d 861 (1983); Nunemacher Will, 3 Fiduc. Rep. 2d 292 (Berks 19083).
Unknown until the hearing.
It will be interesting. If disliking and mistrusting in-laws is an "insane delusion" there are heck of a lot of wills out there that will be invalidated. On the other hand, shouldn’t a will disposition made on account of paranoia (assuming that it is insanity) be invalidated?
The next headline may be "Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you."