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Court Looks at Construction of Will


This involves a case where the court uphold the principle that the intention of the testatrix is of paramount importance which must be respected after it has been presented and admitted to probate. If the executrix intends to dispose the subject property in the will, the court suggested that she may do so through application for the sale of the real property pursuant to sections 233 of the Surrogate’s Court Act.

On October 28, 1931, decedent’s holographic will was admitted to probate on September 25, 1956. In paragraph ‘Third’ of the will, testatrix provided in part as follows: ‘I give to my daughter In trust for her god child and my grand son my home with all furnishings * * *. I positively wish no encumbrance such as a mortgage or lean (sic) to be placed upon this property * * *. This home is not to be rented or leaset for any business whatever. * * *. I give to my daughter * * * to make sure that she may have a home during her life time. At her death this property goes to her God-child * * *.’ The grandson survived testatrix but has since died.

Petitioner seeks permission from the probate court to sell the real property described in the will.
A New York Probate Lawyer said in constructing the will of testatrix with respect to the intended disposition of certain real property, the probate court rejected the petition of the godson.

In the opinion of the Court, testatrix was primarily concerned with the welfare of petitioner, her daughter. Although she used the terminology ‘in trust’ in paragraph ‘Third,’ a careful analysis of the will as a whole reveals that it does not impose the duties of a trustee upon petitioner. The words were used with a layman’s conception of their meaning.

In the absence of an express or implied direction for the payment of income by a trustee to another as beneficiary, no valid trust is created. Brooklyn Probate Lawyers said the testatrix gave to petitioner both the actual possession of the realty and the rents and profits. [22 Misc.2d 657] Under such facts, the statute creates a legal life estate with the same incidents of tenure as if the bequest had taken such form. Such a life estate is a freehold estate giving the beneficiary the full possession, use and enjoyment of the property for the duration of her natural life.

The Court holds that the true meaning, construction and effect of paragraph ‘Third’ of the will was to devise the described real property to the daughter for her life with remainder upon her death to testatrix’ grandson. Manhattan Probate Lawyers said that since the latter survived testatrix but died before the life tenant and there being no words of survivorship in the will, he took a vested interest in the remainder upon the death of the testatrix. Upon the death of the life tenant the remainder interest of godson will pass to or be payable to his estate.

According to the court, inasmuch as the real property was specifically devised to testatrix’ daughter, who is not an infant or incompetent, section 13 of the Decedent Estate Law does not become operative to confer a power of sale upon the executrix.

In the alternative, the probate court said that the executrix may however make appropriate application for the sale of the real property pursuant to sections 233 et seq. of the Surrogate’s Court Act. The net proceeds derived upon such sale shall be held by the life tenant for her life in lieu of the realty.

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