SADIE M. CASTRUCCIO
THE ESTATE OF PETER A. CASTRUCCIO et al.
Argued: May 5, 2017
Court for Anne Arundel County Case No. 02-C-13-181345
Barbera, C.J. Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty,
Rodowsky, Lawrence F. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
If from the whole evidence, the jury shall find that
Tilghman Waters executed the will in controversy, in the
presence of three subscribing witnesses thereto, and that
they, at his request, in his presence, and in the presence
of each other, signed their names as witnesses thereto;
that at the time of the execution thereof, he, the said
Tilghman, was capable of understanding the business in
which he was engaged-the property he desired to dispose of,
and the object of his bounty named in said will, and that
the same was his free and voluntary act, they will find for
Waters v. Waters, 35 Md. 531, 536 (1872).
similar to the formulation quoted by this Court in
Waters in 1872, the current testamentary statute
provides that "every will shall be (1) in writing, (2)
signed by the testator, or by some other person for him, in
his presence and by his express direction, and (3) attested
and signed by two or more credible witnesses in the presence
of the testator." Md. Code (1974, 2011 Repl. Vol.),
Estates & Trusts ("ET") § 4-102.
fact, the statutory requirements for the valid execution of a
will have remained virtually unchanged in Maryland for over
two hundred years. In 1798, the General Assembly enacted the
first testamentary statute in Maryland, which included
strikingly similar language for devises:
All devises and bequests of any lands or tenements, devisable
by law, shall be in writing, and signed by the party so
devising the same, or by some other person in his presence,
and by his express directions, and shall be attested and
subscribed in the presence of the said devisor, by three or
four credible witnesses, or else they shall be utterly void
and of none effect[.]
1798 Md. Laws, ch. 101, sub-ch. 1, § 4. This Court has
previously traced the foundational roots of these
longstanding testamentary formalities to the English Statute
of Frauds. See Casson v. Swogell, 304 Md. 641,
few changes have been made to the language of the 1798
statute. In 1884, the statute was amended such that only
"two or more credible witnesses" were required for
attestation. 1884 Md. Laws, ch. 293. In 1943, the statute was
amended to add a paragraph (b), which provided exceptions to
the statutory formalities for persons serving in the armed
forces located outside of the United States. 1943 Md. Laws,
ch. 799. The current language of the statute first appeared
in 1969 as Article 93, § 4-102 of the Maryland Code.
See 1969 Md. Laws, ch. 3, § 1. In 1974, the
former Article 93 was recodified as the Estates and Trusts
Article during Code Revision. See 1974 Md. Laws, ch.
11, § 2. The statute has not been substantively amended
since its enactment in its current form in 1969. But
see 2010 Md. Laws, ch. 72, § 5 (nonsubstantive
appeal, we must determine whether a will admitted to probate
satisfied the statutory requirements for valid execution,
particularly the requirement of attestation. For the
following reasons, we hold that the will at issue satisfied
the statutory requirements for valid execution, and therefore
the circuit court properly granted summary judgment in favor
of the testator's estate. Accordingly, we affirm the
judgment of the Court of Special Appeals.
Peter Castruccio died on February 19, 2013, at the age of
eighty-nine. He was survived by his wife of sixty-two years,
Sadie Castruccio, who was ninety-two years old at the time of
Drafting and Execution of the 2010 Will
signed a last will and testament on September 28, 2008, which
he filed with the Register of Wills for Anne Arundel County
for safekeeping. In September 2010, Peter asked his attorney,
John Greiber, to retrieve the 2008 Will so that he could
revise it. When Peter received the 2008 Will, he marked up
the document in the presence of Mr. Greiber, and asked his
longtime employee, Darlene Barclay, to transcribe his
changes. Darlene made the requested changes and returned the
draft 2010 Will to Peter, who reviewed it with Mr. Greiber on
September 28, 2010.
September 29, 2010, Peter signed the 2010 Will in the
presence of three witnesses: Mr. Greiber, his daughter
Samantha Greiber, and Darlene's daughter Kim Barclay, who
had also been employed by Peter for approximately six years.
Peter called the three witnesses into his office and
requested that they sign the papers on his desk, which he
identified as his will. Peter then signed the Will in the
presence of Mr. Greiber, Samantha, and Kim. Next, each of the
three witnesses signed the Will in the presence of Peter and
each other. Six weeks later, on November 17, 2010, Mr.
Greiber deposited the Will with the Register of Wills for
Anne Arundel County, where it remained until one week after
Format and Substance of the 2010 Will
2010 Will, which is reproduced in the appendix to this
opinion, consists of six pages, which are consecutively
numbered as pages 1 of 6, 2 of 6, etc. The page numbers are
centered on the bottom of each page. The words "Peter
Adalbert Castruccio" are centered in large font on the
top of page 1 of 6; otherwise, the font and type-size are
consistent throughout the document.
first paragraph on page 1 of 6 of the Will, Peter
"declare[s] this instrument as his WILL IN TESTAMENT
[sic]." The second paragraph on page 1 of 6 states that,
upon his death, Peter "hereby declare[s] the
following:[.]" Following these introductory paragraphs,
the 2010 Will contains eleven consecutively numbered
paragraphs labeled Item 1, Item 2, etc. Some paragraphs are
further subdivided into consecutively numbered subparagraphs.
names Mr. Greiber as Peter's personal representative for
the administration of his estate. Item 7 leaves cash bequests
of varying amounts to three specified individuals, including
Darlene. Item 8 leaves "the rest and remainder" of
Peter's estate to Sadie, "should she one, survive
[Peter] and two provided she has made and executed a Will
prior to [Peter's] death." Item 10, entitled
"Residuary Clause, " appearing on page 5 of 6,
provides as follows:
Should, at the time of my death, my beloved wife not have a
valid Will filed with the Register of Wills in Anne Arundel
County dated prior thereto these, I hereby give, devise and
bequeath all the rest and residue of my Estate and property,
whether imposition, expectancy will remainder, including all
property over which I may have Power of Appointment to the
following individuals share and share alike per stirpes and
not per capita to DARLENE BARCLAY, [address redacted], Glen
Burnie, Maryland, 21061.
page 5 of 6 of the Will, below the "Residuary
Clause" and Item 11, appears a concluding paragraph:
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I, the above mentioned
testator have hereunto set my hands and seals to this six
page instrument, and have initial [sic] each page hereof,
which instrument is intendant [sic] to be my Last Will and
Testament, this 29th day of September,
date "29th" is handwritten above a blank
line.) Contrary to this statement, none of the pages of the
2010 Will are initialed. Below this concluding paragraph,
Peter signed his full name above the typewritten words
"PETER ADALBERT CASTRUCCIO[.]" Below his signature
are the words "SIGNED, SEALED, PUBLISHED AND DECLARE
[sic], BY PETER ADALBERT CASTRUCCIO." Another line down,
the last two lines of page 5 of 6 read as follows: "The
above named individual, does declare for his Last Will and
Testament this instrument, have hereunto subscribed to have
witness on the date last mentioned above,
and at the location, and [. . . .]"
first two lines of the next page of the Will, page 6 of 6,
appear to be a continuation of the sentence that began on the
previous page: "I do hereby attest that the testator to
be of sound mind, fully able to understand this instrument,
and the testator voluntarily and freely did sign same."
Below these words are the signatures of Mr. Greiber, Kim, and
Samantha, each appearing under the word "WITNESS:"
and above a line that reads, "Signature, residing
at:[.]" Below each signature appears the witness'
address. (Mr. Greiber's address is typed consistent with
the text of the document; Kim's and Samantha's
addresses are handwritten in what appears to be the same
handwriting as their signatures.) No other text appears on
page 6 of 6, other than the pagination at the bottom of the
Petition to Caveat the 2010 Will
February 26, 2013, one week after Peter's death, Mr.
Greiber filed a Petition for Administrative Probate with the
Register of Wills for Anne Arundel County, requesting
appointment as personal representative of Peter's estate
and admission to probate of the 2010 Will. The next day, the
Register of Wills issued an Administrative Probate Order,
appointing Mr. Greiber as personal representative of
Peter's estate and admitting the 2010 Will to
time of Peter's death, Sadie had not filed a valid will
with the Register of Wills for Anne Arundel County. Thus,
under Mr. Greiber's interpretation of Peter's 2010
Will (and specifically the Residuary Clause), the residue of
Peter's estate would pass to Darlene, not to Sadie.
Seeking to avoid this result, on March 27, 2013, Sadie filed
a Petition to Caveat Will in the Orphans' Court for Anne
Arundel County. On July 2, 2013, Sadie petitioned the
Orphans' Court to transmit issues related to the caveat
to the circuit court.
August 1, 2013, the Orphans' Court entered an order
transmitting seven issues to the Circuit Court for Anne
Arundel County for trial, designating Sadie as the plaintiff
and the Estate of Peter Castruccio ("Estate") as
the defendant. The seven issues were designated as follows:
A. Was the six (6) page paper writing dated September 29,
2010, captioned "Peter Adalbert Castruccio" (the
"Will") executed by Peter Adalbert Castruccio (the
B. Did the Testator execute the Will intending it to
constitute his last will and testament?
C. Are all of the pages of the Will the genuine pages the
Testator believed comprised the Will he intended to execute?
D. Was the execution of the Will procured by undue influence?
E. Was the execution of the Will procured by fraud?
F. Was the Will actually attested and signed by credible
witnesses in the presence of the Testator?
G. Were the contents of the Will read by or to the Testator
or known to him at or before the time of its purported
September 17, 2013, the circuit court granted a motion to
intervene filed by Darlene, and designated her as a
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment
October 10, 2013, the Estate filed a motion for summary
judgment on all seven issues. Sadie filed an opposition to
the motion on October 30, 2013. The circuit court held
hearings on the motion on February 21, 2014 and May 2, 2014.
Meanwhile, on April 8, 2014, Sadie filed a cross-motion for
summary judgment as to Issue F, arguing that the 2010 Will
did not satisfy the statutory requirement of attestation
because the witnesses did not sign on the same page as the
testator or on "physically connected pages." Sadie
submitted the affidavit of her attorney, who declared that he
inspected the 2010 Will at the Register of Wills on March 27,
2013, and found that it "consisted of six separate,
unattached pages, without any staple holes or other evidence
of having ever been physically connected together."
also submitted the deposition testimony of Mr. Greiber and
his daughter Samantha, both of whom were witnesses to the
2010 Will. In his deposition, Mr. Greiber recalled that the
Will had been stapled when it was signed:
Q. So he took his signature page and the-
A. The whole will, I think everything was stapled together
I'm pretty sure.
Q. It was stapled at that time?
A. I think, I'm pretty sure. Again, Peter had a habit of
stapling everything. I don't staple everything.
Q. So-and this is not a will but-so if it was stapled, was it
stapled like here-
also testified in her deposition that the 2010 Will was
stapled at the time of signing:
Q. Do you remember when he gave you the will-
Q. And again, if you don't remember please let me know.
Q. But whether it was actually stapled as one unit-
Q. -or whether it was just loose papers?
addition, Samantha testified that she remembered seeing Peter