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Adams v. Link

    Brief Fact Summary. Action brought by plaintiffs for a decree approving a compromise agreement that would terminate a testamentary trust. The Superior Court of Fairfield County found the agreement invalid and plaintiffs appeal.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A testamentary trust that is created in clear and unambiguous language may only be terminated by a decree of a court of equity, notwithstanding any stipulation by all parties in interest.

    Facts. Mildred A. Kingsmill, the testatrix, created a will and codicil under which Defendants, George Link and The United States Trust Company of New York, are the executors and trustees. This action stems from an appeal by Orson Adams Jr., and Alvin P. Adams, two of the three heirs at law, from the admission of the will and codicil to probate. The will disposed of the residue of the estate by a trust and it provided for the payment of the net income for life to Pringle and Mayes M. Foeppel. At the death of the survivor the trust was to terminate and the corpus was to be distributed to The New York Association for the Blind. Pringle predeceased the testatrix leaving Foepple as the sole income beneficiary. Pending appeal from probate, a compromise agreement was entered into by Foeppel, The New York Association for the Blind and the three heirs at law of the testatrix. By its express terms the compromise agreement was made subject to the approval of the Superior Court. Defendant
    executors and trustees refused to carry out the agreement. Plaintiffs, which includes all parties except the New York Association for he Blind, which was made a party defendant, seeks 1) the approval of the agreement by the Superior Court and 2) a decree compelling the defendant executors and trustees to carry it out. The court refused to approve the agreement and plaintiffs appeal.

    Issue. Whether the court should approve the compromise agreement made by plaintiffs even though it is contrary to the terms of the trust and would in effect terminate the trust?

    Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
    Conditions precedent which should occur in order to warrant termination of the trust by judicial decree are 1) all parties in interest seek the termination, 2) that every reasonable ultimate purpose of the trust’s creation and existence has been accomplished and, 3) that no fair and lawful restriction imposed by the testator will be nullified or disturbed as a result.

    The basic objectives of the testatrix were to provide 1) income for life for Foeppel and, 2) at her death an intact corpus to New York Association for the blind. These are reasonable objectives and to abolish the trust and turn over a fraction of the corpus outright to the life beneficiary defeats the objective of the trust. If the testatrix intended to entrust the life beneficiary with the handling of any part of the corpus, she would have provided so by an outright gift.


    Discussion. The basic effect of the compromise agreement, if approved by the court, would be to terminate the trust. The underlying rationale of the rule is the protection of any reasonable, properly expressed, testamentary desire of a decedent.


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