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Lynn v. Clinton

Court of Chancery of Delaware, New Castle County

April 29, 1955

John F. LYNN, Executor under the last Will and Testament of Jacob A. Melvin, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
Helen CLINTON, Russell Clinton, Jr., Louis Clinton, James Clinton, Howard C. Clinton, Edwin Clinton, Rena Woodridge, Margaret Lichfield, Clare McCabe, also known as Clara Winbrow, The Home of Merciful Rest, a corporation of the State of Delaware, Young Men's Christian Association, a corporation of the State of Delaware, Harvey S. Clinton, Russell Clinton, Sr., Dorothy M. Clinton, Defendants.

Proceeding involving construction of a will. The Court of Chancery, Seitz, Chancellor, held that where a will paragraph gave wife of testator's great-nephew ‘ one-half of all my personal estate, consisting of cash in bank’ and in savings funds, and same paragraph directed executor to sell stocks and bonds in safe deposit box and recited that bequest was made to named beneficiary for acts of kindness, the phrase ‘ all my personal estate’ was qualified and limited, and not merely described, by succeeding words ‘ consisting of’ etc., and did not include stocks and bonds.

Order in accordance with opinion.

Victor J. Colombo, Wilmington, for plaintiff-executor.

John S. Walker and Frank J. Miller, Wilmington, for defendant, Dorothy M. Clinton.

A. James Gallo and Howard Duane, Wilmington, for defendants, Helen Clinton, Russell Clinton, Jr., Louis Clinton, James Clinton, Howard C. Clinton, Edwin Clinton, Rena Woodridge, Clara McCabe and Russell Clinton, Sr.

William A. Worth, Jr., of Richards, Layton & Finger, Wilmington, for defendant, The Home of Merciful Rest.

[35 Del.Ch. 173] John T. Gallagher of Morris, Steel, Nichols & Arsht, Wilmington, for defendant, Young Men's Christian Association.

The defendant Harvey S. Clinton did not appear.

SEITZ, Chancellor.

This is the decision after final hearing on the executor's complaint seeking instructions as to the proper construction of Item 16 of the will of Jacob A. Melvin, dated February 20, 1951. He died a childless widower April 15, 1953.

I summarize the provisions of his will. Items 1 and 2 are not here material. By Items 3 to 9 inclusive he made specific bequests of $1200 each to his nephew's wife and to each of his nephew's children except Harvey S. Clinton. By Item 10 he left $500 to his niece by his sister Emma. By Item 11 he left the sum of $500 to his second cousin, Clara McCabe. By Items 12 and 13 he bequeathed $1,000 each to two charitable institutions. By Items 14 and 15 he devised two separate pieces of real estate to two friends for life and the remainder to Russell Clinton, Sr., (his nephew) and Harvey S. Clinton, his great-nephew.

Page 574

The disputed Item 16 reads as follows:

‘ I give, bequeath and devise unto Dorothy M. Clinton, (wife of Harvey S. Clinton) all those four lots of land each lot of land with a dwelling house thereon erected, to her and her heirs and assigns forever-the said Houses are numbered as follows No. 1001 and 1003 Kirkwood Street and 1004 and 1006 Kirkwood Street in the City of Wilmington, New Castle County and State of Delaware; I also give and bequeath unto the said Dorothy M. Clinton, one-half of all my personal estate, consisting of cash in Bank and in the Wilmington Savings Fund Society and in the Artisans Savings Bank both in the City of Wilmington, Delaware, and I order and direct my executor to sell for the best price or prices of all my certificates of stock all of my bonds and all of my preferred stocks that I now own and that are in the Safe Deposit Box at the Equitable Trust Company, Wilmington, Delaware.

[35 Del.Ch. 174] ‘ This bequest and devise is made to the said Dorothy M. Clinton, for her many acts of kindness in the ...


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