Trust of Gurney

59 N.Y.S.3d 587 (2017)

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Trust of Gurney

New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department
59 N.Y.S.3d 587 (2017)

  • Written by Rose VanHofwegen, JD

Facts

Margaret Gurney placed her assets in a living trust when she could no longer manage her own affairs. The trust agreement directed the trustee (plaintiff) to use the remaining trust assets to pay Gurney’s debts and make specific gifts when Gurney died, then divide and give the bulk of estate to three charitable institutions. Specifically, Gurney wanted to give 20 percent to St. Mary’s Roman Catholic School, where she had enjoyed volunteering. But the school had been closed for four years when Gurney died, and its grounds sold. The school had not merged into another parochial school, as none existed in the area. The trustee petitioned the court for permission to divide the school’s share between the two other institutions that Gurney named in her will. But St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, New York, which had operated the school, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York (defendants), argued that the school’s share should go instead to its ministry and a diocesan scholarship under the cy pres doctrine. The trustee countered that Gurney wanted to support only local institutions in her adopted hometown of Oneonta, had no interest in Roman Catholic education itself, and felt she had satisfied her duty to give to the parish by donating to it during her lifetime. The trust agreement made gifts to institutions only in Oneonta, did not mention Gurney’s faith, and did not make any gifts to the parish or other Catholic institutions. The court agreed with the trustee that the school’s share should go to the other institutions Gurney had chosen. The church and the parish appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Devine, J.)

Dissent (Lynch, J.)

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