Carpenter v. Miller

26 S.W.3d 135 (2000)

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Carpenter v. Miller

Arkansas Court of Appeals
26 S.W.3d 135 (2000)

Facts

Eunice Carpenter’s will contained a residuary clause naming four primary beneficiaries. Three of the primary beneficiaries—Ernest L. Carpenter, Bryan A. Carpenter, and Orilla Carpenter Pinkston—were the siblings of Eunice’s husband (the husband’s siblings). The fourth primary beneficiary, Paul L. Chaudoin, was Eunice’s brother. The residuary clause provided that the interest of any of the husband’s siblings who predeceased Eunice would lapse and that the survivors among the four primary beneficiaries would take the deceased sibling’s interest. The residuary clause also provided that if Chaudoin predeceased Eunice, then his interest would not lapse. Instead, Chaudoin’s interest would be distributed among Chaudoin’s five children (the Chaudoin heirs). All four primary beneficiaries predeceased Eunice. Ernest died in 1991, Orilla died in 1996, Chaudoin died in 1997, and Bryan died in 1998. After Eunice’s death, C. J. Carpenter (plaintiff), the co-executor of the estate and Ernest’s son, asserted a claim against the estate on behalf of the heirs of the husband’s siblings (the Carpenter heirs). The Carpenter heirs claimed that the residuary clause was ambiguous and could be interpreted to mean that, at the death of each primary beneficiary, that person’s interest passed to his heirs or legatees. The Carpenter heirs argued that, pursuant to this interpretation of the residuary clause, they were entitled to three-fourths of the estate and the Chaudoin heirs were entitled to one-fourth of the residue of the estate. The other co-executor of the estate (defendant), whose interests were aligned with the Chaudoin heirs, argued that the Chaudoin heirs were entitled to the entire residue of the estate. The probate court found for the Chaudoin heirs, and the Carpenter heirs appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Koonce, J.)

Dissent (Stroud, J.)

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