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In re Estate of Pluhacek

Supreme Court of Nebraska

April 27, 2017

In re Estate of Dorothy Pluhacek, also known as Mary Pluhacek, also known as Sr. M. Dorothy de N.D., deceased.
v.
Estate of Dorothy Pluhacek, also known as Mary Pluhacek, also known as Sr. M. Dorothy de N.D., DECEASED, APPELLEE. Margaret Hickey, appellant,

         1. Decedents' Estates: Appeal and Error. An appellate court reviews probate cases for error appearing on the record made in the county court.

         2. Decedents' Estates: Judgments: Appeal and Error. When reviewing questions of law in a probate matter, an appellate court reaches a conclusion independent of the determination reached by the court below.

         3. Decedents' Estates: Wills: Intent: Proof. A document purporting to be a will, which is otherwise sufficient, will satisfy the "writing" requirement of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2327 (Reissue 2016), whether it is completely handwritten; partly written in ink and partly in pencil; partly typewritten and partly printed; partly printed, partly typewritten, and partly written; or on a printed form, as well as other combinations of these forms and comparable permanent techniques of writing which substantively evidence testamentary intent.

         Appeal from the County Court for Douglas County: Thomas K. Harmon, Judge. Reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

          Shane J. Placek, of Sidner Law, for appellant.

          No appearance for appellee.

         [296 Neb. 529] Heavican, C.J., Wright, Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy. Kelch, and Funke, JJ.

          Miller-Lerman, J.

         NATURE OF CASE

         Margaret Hickey, the current Provincial Superioress of the Omaha province of the Notre Dame Sisters, appeals the decision of the Douglas County Court which denied formal probate of a document that Hickey purported to be the valid will of Dorothy Pluhacek, also known as Mary Pluhacek, also known as Sr. M. Dorothy de N.D. The court concluded that the document was not a valid will under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2327 (Reissue 2016) because portions of the document were handwritten and further concluded that the document was not admissible as a holographic will under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 30-2328 (Reissue 2016). Because we conclude that the document is a properly executed will under § 30-2327, we reverse the order of the county court and remand the cause for formal probate.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Pluhacek died on July 1, 2015, at 100 years of age. Thereafter, Hickey filed an application for informal probate of the will and informal appointment of a personal representative in the Douglas County Court. Hickey sought appointment as personal representative on the basis that she was the current Provincial Superioress of the Omaha province of the Notre Dame Sisters, and the document she submitted for probate named the holder of that title as executor.

         The document Hickey purported to be Pluhacek's will accompanied the application. The document contained certain preprinted terms, typewritten material, and blanks that were completed in handwriting. The content of the document is set forth below. The portions that were handwritten in the document are indicated by italics below. The portion that is underlined below was not underlined in the document but was in a [296 Neb. 530] different typeset than the preprinted portions of the document. The document stated as follows:

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
IN THE NAME OF GOD. ...

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