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Court Decides the Disposition of Real Property


This is an application for a construction of the will of testatrix with respect to the intended disposition of certain real property. Testatrix’ holographic will dated October 28, 1931, was admitted to probate on September 25, 1956. In paragraph ‘Third’ of the will, testatrix provided in part as follows: ‘I give to Ms. M (her daughter) In trust for Mr. T her god child and my grandson 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 leased 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 remainderman, Mr. T, survived testatrix but has since died. Petitioner seeks leave to sell the real property described in the will.

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 as explained in the case of In re Hasketts’ Will, (4Misc.2d 1065, 159 N.Y.S.2d 225, 227). Testatrix gave to petitioner both the actual possession of the realty and the rents and profits. 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 Ms. M for her life with remainder upon her death to testatrix’ grandson, Mr. T. 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 (Matter of Krooss, 302 N.Y. 424, 429, 99 N.E.2d 222, 225, 47 A.L.R.2d 894). Upon the death of the life tenant the remainder interest of Mr. T will pass to or be payable to his estate.

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. 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. Settle decree on notice.

If the provision of a will is uncertain as to the effects of some bequeaths of real estate property, construction thereof may be had through the help of an expert legal representative. If you experience same dilemma, case law may shed light to the issues like this. The Stephen Bilkis & Associates together with their experienced attorneys are skilled when it comes to giving spirit to the last wishes of the testator.


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