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Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. v. Winthrop

238 N.Y. 477, 144 N.E. 686 (1924)

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Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co. v. Winthrop

New York Court of Appeals

238 N.Y. 477, 144 N.E. 686 (1924)

Facts

Helen Bostwick’s husband died leaving an estate worth several million dollars in trust with United States Trust Company (United). Before the probate court finished settling the trust accounts, Helen established a trust for her daughter and grandchildren to receive the assets. Attorneys prepared a deed of trust, two powers of attorney, and an accompanying letter to Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co. (Farmers) (plaintiff). Under the deed, Helen placed $5,000 in the trust, reserving the right to deliver additional property in the future. The powers of attorney gave Farmers the power to receive and collect assets Helen obtained in the probate proceedings and to sell or transfer stock. The letter instructed, “My desire is and I hereby authorize you to receive from the United States Trust Company of New York all securities and property coming to me under the decree on the settlement of its account and to transfer such securities and property to yourself as trustee” of the trust established the same day. The court completed accounting and established Helen’s share, worth over $2,300,000. About five weeks later, a Farmers representative told United that he was authorized to receive securities ready for delivery. United immediately delivered $865,880 worth of stock into Helen’s trust, but evidently the other $1,470,473 worth was not ready. Helen died later that night, leaving a will that appointed Farmers executor and disposing of an estate over $20,000,000. United delivered the remaining securities from her husband’s trust to Farmers a few months later. Farmers filed suit as trustee of Helen’s trust against various legatees and remaindermen (defendants) who filed conflicting claims to the assets. The trial and appellate court found Helen had not completed the gift before her death and directed those assets distributed under her will instead of to the trust. The trust beneficiaries appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cardozo, J.)

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