The executor of the estates of two decedents asks the court to determine whether the proceeds from an insurance settlement should go to the decedents’ residuary estates or if it should go to beneficiary who was supposed to receive the property that was destroyed.
Husband and wife decedents F. Zimmerli and J. Zimmerli, presumably died simultaneously in a fire in their home on December 13, 1959. They left reciprocal wills which were duly admitted to probate on January 15, 1960. The wills state the real estate that was destroyed in the fire was to go to the Grace Episcopal Church of Lyons, New York. Caverly was named as the executor of the estates of both of the decedents. Caverly filed a petition with the Surrogate’s Court for the Judicial Settlement of his first intermediate account in the two estates. In the petition, Caverly asked the court to determine if the $16,813.20 insurance settlement for the fire loss to the real estate of the decedents should go to the decedents’ residuary estates or to the Grace Episcopal Church.
The language of the wills clearly shows the intention of the testators to specifically devise the destroyed real estate to the Grace Episcopal Church which is plain and obvious. However, the question is whether the rules related to how to handle proceeds of insurance policy means that the proceeds should go to the decedents’ residuary estates.
The Surrogate’s Court determined that in both equity and Law the proceeds of this insurance policy which has been paid as a result of the damage to the real property should be paid over by the executor to the Grace Episcopal Church. The court came to this conclusion because the will specifically makes this devise to the Church. There is no language that requires the Church to maintain or keep the real property. There is no restriction on what the Church could do with the property. Thus, there is no direction or requirement that the Grace Episcopal Church must maintain the real property, keep it, or any restriction whatsoever. The intent of the testators in the will was to give the property to the Grace Episcopal Church and they themselves could have transferred it into specie, meaning cash. The insurers by the terms of their policy had the option to repair it or to themselves turn it into specie. Instead of repairing the property, the issuance company turned the property into cash by issuing the estate of the decedents a check.
Accordingly, the court found that the Grace Episcopal Church was entitled to the insurance proceeds.