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In re Kroos

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellant Husband of Heir Daughter (Daughter) appeals the appellate court’s ruling in favor of Respondent Administrator (Respondent) that modified the lower court’s interpretation of a will such that the husband received nothing under the will.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Additional language will not be read as qualifying or cutting down the estate unless that language is as clear and decisive as that which created the vested remainder.

    Facts. Testator father (Testator) left a life estate to his wife with the remainder to be paid to his son and daughter. Testator allowed that his wife may use the principal of the trust as was necessary for her care and support. After Testator’s wife’s death, the remaining portion of the trust was to be equally divided between Testator’s two children. Daughter died before Testator’s wife. Daughter was married but did not leave any descendants. Appellant claimed his wife’s share from Testator’s will. Respondent argued that this share was not to be taken by Daughter’s estate because she died prior to her mother, and therefore her interest was forfeited. The Appellate Court agreed with Respondent. Appellant challenges this finding and claims that Testator meant to defeat Daughter’s

    Issue. Should the additional language in Testator’s will be read as qualifying or cutting down the estate even though that language is not as clear and decisive as that which creates the vested remainder?

    Held. No. Additional language will not be read as qualifying or cutting down the estate unless that language is as clear and decisive as that which created the vested remainder. When a will contains language that has acquired, through judicial decision, a definite and established significance, the testator is taken to have employed that language in that sense and with that meaning in mind. The primary object in construing wills is to ascertain the intention of the testator, and when that has been ascertained, it is to be implicitly obeyed, however informal the language in which such intention has been conveyed. But the intention is not matter of speculation or arbitrary conjecture. It is sought for in the language used; and when language or a certain collocation of words has once received judicial construction, precedents are formed which are followed in later cases. When a testator uses technical words, he is presumed to employ them in their legal sense, and that words in general ar
    e to be taken in their ordinary and grammatical sense unless the context clearly indicates the contrary. Here Testator intended that if his daughter predeceased her mother, her interest was to remain vested and was not to be defeated unless she had descendants. Because she did not have descendants, Testator’s daughters interest stands. The Appellate Division should be reversed and the degree of the lower court affirmed.


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