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Security Trust Co. v. Adams

Court of Chancery of Delaware, New Castle County

April 14, 1950

ADAMS et al.

Page 631

W. Reese Hitchens of Hering, Morris, James & Hitchens, Wilmington, for plaintiffs.

[31 Del.Ch. 328] George Gray Thouron and William Poole of Southerland Berl & Potter, Wilmington, for defendant Helen Dudley Chandler.

Henry M. Canby of Richards, Layton & Finger, Wilmington, for defendants Greta C. Adams and Howard H. Adams.

Howard L. Williams, Wilmington, for defendants Edna C. Eliason and Swithin T. Chandler.

SEITZ, Vice Chancellor.

This is a complaint seeking instructions as to the meaning of certain provisions of a will and codicil.

The testator, Lilburn Chandler, died December 1, 1948, at the age of 93 years. The testator, who was a Delaware attorney, left surviving him a widow, Helen Dudley Chandler, who was then 66 years of age. The testator also left surviving him three children by a former marriage viz.: Edna C. Eliason, then 62 years of age, Swithin T. Chandler, then 60 years of age, and Greta C. Adams, then 55 years of age.

The testator's will was dated January 18, 1937 while his codicils were dated respectively December 9, 1940, December 25, 1945 and May 24, 1948.

The testator left a gross estate of approximately $500,000. The request for instructions by the executor and trustee are premised upon alleged ambiguities between the will itself and the third codicil.

As the case has developed it becomes unnecessary to discuss the first three requests for instructions dealing with the so-called $10,000 trust. All parties in interest are represented. They have either by admission or failure to take a position conceded that the power of appointment granted Greta C. Adams under the original will was not revoked by the language of the codicils. For the same reasons the [31 Del.Ch. 329] parties have all agreed that the duty to maintain the home to be purchased under the $10,000 trust falls on Greta C. Adams and her husband, Howard H. Adams. The parties have also by silence or admission conceded that the trust of the home terminates upon the death of the survivor of Greta C. Adams and Howard H. Adams. The executor and trustee will be so instructed as to these three items.

We come now to the three points of active disagreement among the various defendants. The first question presented is as to the termination date of the residuary trust. Specifically, does the trust continue for the lifetimes of the three named children, or also during the lifetime of the widow, if she survives the children. The testator's widow contends that the trust continues during her lifetime without regard to the survivancy of the children. The children contend that the trust terminates upon the death of the last survivor of the testator's children. The original will provided that the residue of the testator's estate was left '* * * in Trust to collect all rents, dividends and interests thereon and therefrom, during the lifetimes of Edna C. Eliason, Greta C. Adams, Helen D. Chandler and Swithin T. Chandler provided that should any of the said my children, die, or decease, the children thereof to take the part and the place of its or their deceased parent, during the continuance of this trust. In further Trust to pay the net income of my estate to my wife and children, quarterly during the respective livetimes [sic] of my wife and children, or the heirs of any one or more deceased child or children and in further trust, upon the decease of the survivor of my children to pay the whole principal of this my Trust Estate, to divide and pay same to the heirs of my said children, the same in thirds, Edna's heirs to receive one third, Greta's heirs to receive one third, and Swithin's heirs to receive one third.'

Page 632

The testator's third codicil reads as follows:

'I, Lilburn Chandler the testator do hereby additionally provide and do authorize my the said Trustee of my will to pay monthly to my wife Helen Dudley Chandler seventy five Dollars each and every month during her lifetime out of my income from my estate.

'Further I provide said Trustee shall all [sic] pay twenty-five dollars monthly to my daughter, Greta Adams out of the income of my estate during her lifetime.

[31 Del.Ch. 330] 'Witness my hand and seal the day and year above written.

'All other provisions of my estate under my will to be kept and at the death of the survivor of my wife and children my estate is to be settled and the total estate divided to their heirs and issue of heirs such as their ...

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