TRAVERS V. REINHARDT, 205 U. S. 423 (1907)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Travers v. Reinhardt, 205 U.S. 423 (1907)

Travers v. Reinhardt

No. 7

Argued November 1, 2, 1906

Decided April 15, 1907

205 U.S. 423


While the predominant idea of the testator's mind, when discovered, is to be heeded as against all doubtful and conflicting provisions which might defeat it, effect must be given to all the words of a will if by the rules of law it can be done, and the words "without leaving a wife or child or children" will not be construed as "without leaving a wife and child or children," notwithstanding a general dominant interest on the part of the testator that his real estate should descend only through his sons.

A man and woman, neither of whom was a resident of Virginia, and who had not obtained any marriage license, went through a ceremony in Virginia which the woman thought was a marriage by a clergyman; they immediately went to New Jersey, she assuming the man's name; they afterwards went to Maryland and then returned to New Jersey permanently, where they lived and cohabited as husband and wife and were so regarded for many years until his death, she joining in a mortgage with him, and also being described in his wills as his wife; she meanwhile and, prior to the later residence in New Jersey, had ascertained that the person performing the ceremony was not a minister, and that there was no license, but the cohabitation continued and there was testimony that the man assured her that they were married, and afterwards, in his last will, he appointed his wife executrix and she qualified as such.

Held that:

Marriage in fact, as distinguished from a ceremonial marriage, may be proved by habit and repute, and, except in cases of adultery and bigamy, when actual proof is required, may be inferred from continued cohabitation

Page 205 U. S. 424

and reputation, and even though, in view of the statutory requirement in those states, the marriage might have been invalid in Virginia for want of license, and in Maryland for want of religious ceremony, the cohabitation in good faith and reputation during their residence in New Jersey, and their conduct towards each other from the time of the ceremony until the man's death, established an agreement between the parties per verba de praesenti to become husband and wife which was as effective to establish that status in New Jersey as if made in words of the present tense after the parties had become domiciled in that state.

25 App. D.C. 567 affirmed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 205 U. S. 428

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