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“ 4. Where a case, from its peculiar circumstances, pre-eminently calls for investigation.”
To these four we will venture (sit venia) to add
These canons are so startling to a mind habituated to the study of the common law only, that we think our readers will require us to prove, as well as illustrate, them by excerpts from the reports of Doctors' Commons. We will do so from the most accessible reports, illustrating each canon in its order. We will then first cite cases in illustration of the First Canon :
In The Countess de Zichy Ferraris v. The Marquis of Hertford and Others—(2 Notes of Cases, p. 263). An allegation propounding unattested testamentary papers as codicils, on the ground of their being incorporated with the will, was rejected by the court. The expenses were directed to be paid out of the estate on all sides. In Townley v. Watson (3 Curt., p. 770), obliterations of legacies
p were held to be valid as revocations. The court gave the legatees, who were opposing parties, their costs out of the estate.
In Bunny v. Hemsted (3 Notes of Cases, p. 599), certain papers, apparently inconsistent with themselves, were pronounced for, the next of kin opposing. Sir Herbert Jenner Fust directed the
expenses on all sides to be paid out of the estate; observing, “It is a very proper case to be brought before the court.”
The Second Canon may be illustrated by the following cases :
In Wuring v. Waring (5 Notes of Cases, p. 324), a will was pronounced against on the ground of insanity. The court gave the executors propounding it their costs out of the estate. • In Borlase v. Borlase and Others (4 Notes of Cases, p. 140), a will and codicil were opposed on the ground of insanity, but a lucid interval was proved. The court gave the next of kin their costs out of the estate, observing, "I think, at the same time, that these ladies were fully entitled to put the party upon proof of the papers, that the question was one of difficulty and doubt, and I am of opinion that they are entitled to have their expenses paid out of the estate.”
In the cases of Mudway v. Smith, The Executors of Mudway deceased, v. Croft Committee of Wicks, a lunatic (2 Notes of Cases, p. 459), the court pronounced for a will of a lunatic having lucid intervals, on evidence that it was executed in a lucid interval. The court gave the next of kin her costs out of the estate, observing, “ Under these circumstances, I am clearly of opinion that the costs must be paid out of the property, as the case is one which required to be sifted.”
In Frere v. Peacock (1 Robertson, p. 456), a will was opposed on the ground of insanity, but was pronounced for. The court gave the next of kin his costs out of the estate.
With regard to the Third Canon, we will cite Jones v. Godrich (3 Notes of Cases, p. 510). Here a will was pronounced for, but circumstances being proved showing that the transaction on the part of the executors was tainted, the judicial committee
“ We think this litigation was fully justified,” and gave the next of kin her costs out of the estate.
The following are illustrations of the Fourth Canon :- Keating v. Brooks and Others (4 Notes of Cases, p. 273). Here one of the attesting witnesses to a will deposed that her name was forged, and that the paper propounded was not that which she had subscribed ; and the other attesting witness deposed the contrary. The court upheld the will, but gave the next of kin their costs out of the estate. The court said, “It is better that the costs should come out of the estate. Mr. Keating is the writer of the will himself."
Again, in Gregory v. Her Majesty's Proctor and Others (4 Notes of Cases, p. 643), the court pronounced, “After much hesitation and doubt, those were the papers intended by the deceased to have operation as his will, and that he executed in compliance with the act.” Here the court gave all parties their costs out of the estate.
In Coventry v. Williams (3 Notes of Cases, p. 172), a paper was propounded by the executor, and probate was refused of it. The court gave the executor his costs out of the estate, as it was necessary to propound it.”
In James v. Roberts, West, and Others (3 Notes of Cases, p. 324), an executor and an intervening party propounded a will as revived, but the court held the contrary. The court gave the costs of all out of the estate.
In Payne v. Trappe (5 Notes of Cases, p. 485), the court did the same thing under the same circumstances; and so, also, in Neate v. Pickard (2 Notes of Cases, p. 409).
In Symons v. Tozer (3 Notes of Cases, p. 55), the will of a testator was pronounced for, though it was made at a late period of bis life, and contained a disposition totally at variance with a former will, and repugnant to a motive recorded in that will. But the opposing next of kin obtained a decree for his costs out of the estate. The judge said, “ My opinion is, that the case required to be investigated, and that the party opposing the will, from the circumstances stated, is entitled to his costs out of the estate. The facts of the case required investigation.'
In Wood and Others v. Goodlake, Help, and Others (1 Notes of Cases, p. 160), of which most persons have heard more or less, the confusion lay at the door either of the testator or his executors. The judicial committee, in giving judgment, said, “We think it reasonable and proper, in this case, that the costs of all the parties, as well here upon the appeal as in the court below, should be paid out of the estate.”
Lastly, in Hudson v. Parker (3 Notes of Cases, p. 250), when a will having been pronounced against for defective attestation, all parties' expenses were decreed out of the estate.
We come now to the Fifth Canon. In Leech and Others v. Bates, (6 Noles of Cases, p. 708), two codicils were pronounced for, the witnesses deposing against their execution, but the presumption being for it from other circumstances. The court gave the costs of both parties out of the estate.
In Brooks, formerly Reeve, v. Kent (1 Notes of Cases, p. 100), the question raised was as to the construction of the 1 Vict., c. 26, B. 21, upon alterations made by the testator in his will. The judicial committee of the Privy Council directed "all costs to be paid out of the estate.”
In Gaze v. Guze (2 Notes of Cases, p. 230), the execution of a
. will, on the point of legal acknowledgment of the signature, was unsuccessfully disputed by a next of kin. The will being pronounced for, the judge said, “I also think, the question being created by the act of the deceased, that the other parties' expenses should be paid out of the estate.”
In Hooley and MʻQuiggin v. Jones and Jones (2 Notes of Cases, p. 61), the execution of a will was contested. The court was of opinion that the evidence was not sufficient to support the will, and pronounced against its validity, but gave the executor who propounded the will his costs out of the estate.
In Burgoyne v. Showler (3 Notes of Cases, p. 208), a will was opposed on the ground of defective execution under the statute, but was pronounced for. The costs of the next of kin were decreed to be paid out of the estate.
In all these cases we trace the general principle, that there are sets of circumstances in which the unsuccessful opponent or propounder of a will, as having a right to call for inquiry (which, to be effectual and satisfactory, must be curial), or being under the obligation to support the will, has an equity which entitles him to the costs of his inquiry. It is established in these cases that costs, if they are to be considered a penalty, should be levied from the person who made the inquiry necessary—-viz., the deceased; for the contest has arisen through his own act, or an exceptional condition in himself, or a difficulty in the application of the statute. In all these cases we have a recognition that a suit respecting the validity of a will, is not to be regarded in the same light as that which lies at the instance of a creditor against his debtor. The plaintiff and defendant in the will cause have no assimilation to the plaintiff and defendant in the action for debt, and the reason is obvious. In the will cause the plaintiff and defendant are both instituting an inquiry—are each endeavouring to arrive at truth out of a tangled web of discordant facts; the result of this inquiry they know not, and for the result they should not be personally liable.
It seems almost superfluous to speak of the good which must result from the operation of such a principle as this when judiciously applied. It relieves an innocent man from a weight of costs under which he might sink, and it enures to the benefit of society, by encouraging an inquiry into all cases that require it.
We have thus seen the principle of the Prerogative Court, both in the abstract and in the concrete; both in the formula and in its application. It appears to us to be a principle worthy of conservation, and the legislature has been of the same opinion, by enacting its preservation-leaving, of course, its application to the julge. It undoubtedly kept the old court on its legs, in spite of a lame and vicious procedure, by securing to it the public respect.
A year has passed since Sir C. Cresswell undertook the most arduous task that can fall to the lot of man-the formation of a new court; and the legal world knows how well he has acquitted himself of that labour. Crevit enim cum amplitudine rerum vis ingenii.
The judge of the Probate Court, however, has set his face sternly against the equitable principles of costs now under discussion. It is tabooed in his court; and this valuable inheritance, transmitted to that court for the use of the public, may possibly be lost from disuse. We regret that the learned judge has exiled equity from a court which the legislature intended should have it. On this point he has thrown back the tide of equity, and left his court in all the dryness of common law. Hence we have a purely common law court, when the legislature contemplated a mixed
This is retrogression. Judicial inquiry into will cases should be encouraged, for there is no class of cases where villany is more rife; and there is no kind of villany which can less stand the brunt of an inquiry, for the simple reason that to support a bad will many bad men must combine.
Again, an inquiry of this kind is most needed by those who are least able to pay its costs_namely, the poor and disinherited. To tax these persons with costs, in all cases where they fail of success, without regard to the nature and degree of their opposition, is not to discourage, but to annihilate inquiry, and to encourage for succeeding generations the perpetration of fraud,