The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll's Will: A Tale of Testamentary Capacity
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Robert Louis Stevensons classic novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, published in 1886, is the well-known tale of a respected scientist (Dr. Henry Jekyll) who transforms himself into an evil-doer (Mr. Edward Hyde). While the work raises issues of tort and criminal liability, this article analyzes the legal issues presented by one particular and crucial plot device that Stevenson employsthe last will of Dr. Jekyll. This will so obsesses Jekylls friend and solicitor, Gabriel John Utterson (through whose eyes the story unfolds), that he is impelled to seek the truth behind his friends relationship to Hyde. At the end of Uttersons search, the solicitor learns about Jekylls dangerous scientific experiment. This discovery leads to the respected doctors moral downfall and his physical death. This article is presented as an imagined dialogue between the articles author and Utterson, Jekylls lawyer, concerning the issues surrounding Jekylls mental capacity to make the will that left the doctors estate to Hyde. Jekylls will is an excellent case study for the application of various legal rules and doctrines regarding a testators mental capacity to make a valid will. These rules include those relating to the general soundness of the testators state of mind, the issues of undue influence and duress, and the doctrine of insane delusion. Stevensons novella is a wonderful vehicle for examining important legal problems that remain as relevant in America today as they were in England during Queen Victorias reign.
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