armchair principle

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A rule applied in the interpretation of wills, enabling circumstances existing when the will was made to be used as evidence to elucidate the meaning of words appearing in the will. For example, such evidence may establish the identity of a beneficiary referred to in the will only by a nickname. The phrase originates from a well-known judicial observation that one may, when construing a will, “place [oneself] in the testator's armchair and consider the circumstances by which he was surrounded when he made his will”.

Subjects: Law.

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