Brief Fact Summary. Ellen Donovan created a will leaving her residuary estate to the defendant, Rev. Eleazer M.P. Wells to distribute for a charitable purpose that she expressed to him before and after the execution of her will.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A trust that is not sufficiently declared on its face to be a trust cannot be used to defeat the rights of heirs at law by extrinsic evidence of a trust
It has been held in England and in other States, although the question has never arisen in this Commonwealth, that, if a person procures an absolute devise or bequest to himself by orally promising the testator that he will convey the property to or hold it for the benefit of third persons, and afterwards refuses to perform his promise, a trust arises out of the confidence reposed in him by the testator and of his own fraud, which a court of equity, upon clear and satisfactory proof of the facts, will enforce against him at the suit of such third persons.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether extrinsic evidence may be admitted to show that a testator intended to create a trust and the document does not show any evidence of a trust but only an outright gift?
Held. No. Extrinsic evidence may not be admitted to show that the testator intended to create a trust because it would defeat the rights of the heirs at law. The document must have been expressed in the form that the law makes essential to every testamentary disposition in order to defeat the rights of the heirs at law. The defendant holds the property in a resulting trust for the testator’s heirs at law.
Discussion. Because heirs at law inherit property of the deceased in the absence of a trust, a trust must sufficiently be declared in the instrument to defeat the rights of heirs at law.