Dandridge v. Washington's Executors
Annotate this Case
27 U.S. 370 (1829)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Dandridge v. Washington's Executors, 27 U.S. 2 Pet. 370 370 (1829)
Dandridge v. Washington's Executors
27 U.S. (2 Pet.) 370
The testatrix directed that the interest of certain funds should be applied "to the proper education" of certain persons her nephews "so that they may be severally fitted and accomplished in some useful trade," and gave to each of them "who should live to finish his education or reach the age of twenty-one years of age one hundred pounds to set him up in his trade." She also gave the whole of her estates of every description, to be equally divided among certain persons who should be living when the interest applicable to the education of her nephews should cease to be required, they being some of the persons among whom the same was to be divided, and she directed that so long as any one of the three nephews who should live had not finished his education or arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the division of the properly so devised and given should be deferred, and no longer.
A bill was filed by the appellant, one of the nephews of the testatrix, charging that the executors had not paid the several sums of money bequeathed to him and praying that they may be decreed to pay the same. No other persons were made parties to the proceeding but the executors, and after a report of the master, the cause came on to a hearing and the circuit court dismissed the bill for want of proper parties. The defendants at the argument insisted that not only the two nephews, whose education was provided for by the testatrix, should have been made parties, but also all the residuary legatees.
So far as the bill sought to obtain such a portion of the fund as was by a fair construction of the will applicable to the education of the nephews of the testatrix, they alone were required to be parties, and the court reversed the decree of the circuit court which dismissed the bill for the purpose of enabling the complainant to make the other two nephews of the testatrix parties.
The Court did not consider it necessary to make the residuary legatees parties in a proceeding the sole object of which was to ascertain and distribute among the nephews of the testatrix, the amount to which they were entitled for the expenses of education. The residuary legatees have undoubtedly an interest in reducing every demand on the estate. Whatever remains sinks into the residuum, and that residuum is diminished as well by the claims of creditors and specific legatees as by this. In all such cases, the executors represent the residuary legatees and guard their interests. It is a part of that duty which requires them to protect the interests of the estate. In such suits, the residuary legatees are never made parties. To require it would be an intolerable burden on those who have claims on an estate in the hands of executors.
The Court does not think that in ascertaining the amount applicable to the education of the appellant, one of the learned professions may be taken as the standard with as much propriety as the trade or art of a mechanic. The distinction between a profession and a trade is well understood, and they are seldom, if ever, confounded with each other in ordinary language. If the testatrix had contemplated what in the common intercourse of society is denominated a profession, she would scarcely have used a term which is generally received as denoting a mechanical art.
But the bequest is not confined to the expense of acquiring the trade, so as to be enabled to exercise it in the common way. The testatrix intended such an education as would fit her relations to hold a distinguished place in that line of life in which she designed them to move. The sum allowed for the object ought to be liberal, such as would accomplish it, if the fund from which it
was to be drawn would permit it.
In the circuit court, the appellant filed his bill against George W. Curtis and Thomas Peter as executors of Mrs. Martha Washington, late of Mount Vernon, claiming the payment of a sum of money due to him, under the bequests in the will of the testatrix, for the expenses of his education, and also for a distributive share of the residuary estate of the deceased, in the hands of the executors, acting as trustees under the will. The facts of the case are stated at large in the opinion of the court.