Home for Incurables v. Noble
172 U.S. 383 (1899)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Home for Incurables v. Noble, 172 U.S. 383 (1899)

Home for Incurables v. Noble

Nos. 57, 61

Argued November 9-10, 1898

Decided January 8, 1899

172 U.S. 383

Syllabus

Mrs. Ruth died on the 16th of June, 1892, having on the first day of the same month and year executed both a will and a codicil. After revoking all previous wills and codicils and directing the payment of debts and funeral expenses, the will bequeathed all the real, personal or mixed property to the American Security and Trust Company for the benefit of a granddaughter, Sophia Yuengling Huston, during her natural life. On the death of the granddaughter, the will provided that the trust should end, and that it should be the duty of the trustee to pay over to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania the sum of five thousand dollars for purposes stated, and to deliver all the "residue and remainder of the estate of whatever kind" to the Home for Incurables, to which corporation such residue was bestowed for a stated object. The codicil was as follows:

"I, Mary Eleanor Ruth, being of sound and disposing mind and memory and understanding, do make and publish this codicil to my last will and testament: I hereby revoke and annul the bequest therein made by me to the Home for Incurables at Fordham, New York city, in the New York, and I hereby give and bequeath the five thousand dollars (heretofore in my will bequeathed to said Home for Incurables) to my friend Emeline Colville, the widow of Samuel Colville, now living in New York city, said bequest being on account of her kindness to my son and myself during his and my illness and my distress."

Held that the effect of the codicil was to revoke the bequest of five thousand dollars, made by the will in favor of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and to substitute therefor the legatee named in the codicil.

Mary E. Ruth died on the 16th of June, 1892, having, on the first day of the same month and year, executed both a will

Page 172 U. S. 384

and a codicil. After revoking all previous wills and codicils and directing the payment of debts and funeral expenses, the will bequeathed all the real, personal, or mixed property to the American Security & Trust Company for the benefit of a granddaughter, Sophia Yuengling Huston, during her natural life. On the death of the granddaughter, the will provided that the trust should end, and that it should be the duty of the trustee to pay over to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania the sum of five thousand dollars for purposes stated, and to deliver all the "residue and remainder of the estate, of whatever kind," to the Home for Incurables, to which corporation such residue was bestowed for a stated object. The codicil unquestionably gave to Emeline Colville a bequest of five thousand dollars. The will and codicil are printed in full in the margin. *

Page 172 U. S. 385

In October, 1895, the American Security & Trust Company, alleging the death of the granddaughter and the termination of the trust, filed a bill to obtain a construction of the will and codicil to the end that it might be enabled to distribute the estate, and thus be legally discharged from all

Page 172 U. S. 386

obligations in the premises. The bill charged that, considering the will and codicil together, there was uncertainty whether the five thousand dollars given by the codicil to Mrs. Colville revoked the bequest in favor of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, or substituted Mrs. Colville, in whole or only in part, in the place and stead of the Home for Incurables, as to the gift in the will to that institution.

The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the Home for Incurables, Emeline Colville, and the heirs at law of the decedent were made parties to the bill. The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, by its answer, denied that there was any ambiguity in the will in regard to the bequest made to it, and averred that such bequest was in no wise impaired by the codicil. The Home for Incurables, although conceding by its answer that there was an ambiguity arising from the will and codicil considered in juxtaposition, yet alleged that the codicil did not in any respect diminish the bequest and devise of the residuum made to it by the will, or, if it did, operated to do so only to the amount of five thousand dollars. Emeline Colville, by her answer, while admitting that there was ambiguity in the will and codicil considered together, averred that such ambiguity was patent, and was resolvable by settled rules of construction. She averred that, applying such rules, it was clear that the codicil operated to revoke the bequest and devise of the residuum of the estate made in favor of the Home for Incurables, and

Page 172 U. S. 387

had substituted Mrs. Colville as the residuary devisee after the payment of the amount of the bequest in favor of the Pennsylvania institution. The heirs at law, by their answer, while admitting that the codicil gave Emeline Colville five thousand dollars, also asserted that the gift of the residue made by the will, in favor of the Home for Incurables, was revoked by the codicil, and therefore that, after payment of the legacy of five thousand dollars given to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and a like amount due to Mrs. Colville under the codicil, the remainder of the estate passed to them, since as to such remainder the decedent was intestate.

The trial court found that the codicil gave Emeline Colville five thousand dollars, and substituted her to the bequest made in favor of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; hence it decreed Mrs. Colville entitled to the five thousand dollars, and that the Pennsylvania corporation took nothing. It further decreed that the other provision of the will -- that is, the disposition of the residuary estate in favor of the Home for Incurables -- was unaffected by the codicil.

The Court of Appeals, to which the controversy was taken, while agreeing that the codicil gave Mrs. Colville five thousand dollars, and that she was entitled to this sum, held (the Chief Justice dissenting) that the effect of the codicil was to revoke the bequest and devise of the residuum in favor of the Home for Incurables, and therefore that Mrs. Ruth, as to the entire remainder of her estate, after paying the legacies to the University of Pennsylvania and Mrs. Colville, had died intestate; consequently, that the residue of the estate should be distributed among the heirs at law. 10 App.D.C. 56.

Page 172 U. S. 388

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