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Warner v. Warner
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
237 F.2d 561 (1956)
Brainard Warner’s will established a trust for the residue of his estate. The will stated that the trust income should be paid to his wife, Mary Warner, and his nine children in equal parts; that upon Mary’s death, the trust should terminate and pass to his nine children in equal parts; that if any of the children died before Mary with issue, the issue should take that child’s share of the trust income, and upon Mary’s death, the issue should take that child’s share of the trust principal; and that if any of the children died before Mary with no issue, that child’s share of the trust income should be split among Mary and the surviving children. The will did not specify who should take such a deceased child’s share of the trust principal upon the trust’s termination. Two of Brainard’s children, Andrew Warner and Rebecca Warner, survived Brainard but died before Mary and left no issue. The trustee (plaintiff) filed a petition to construe the distribution of the trust with respect to the interests of Andrew and Rebecca. The district court found that the will should have included the word “principal” with respect to divestiture of Andrew and Rebecca’s interests. The court fixed this mistake by ruling that their interests in the trust principal should be distributed in the same manner as their interests in the trust income, i.e., solely to Brainard’s lineal descendants. In effect, the court ruled that Andrew and Rebecca’s interests in the principal could be divested upon their deaths. Jennie Warner, Andrew’s widow, appealed, arguing that Andrew’s interest vested upon Brainard’s death and could be divested only if he died with issue. Jennie claimed that because Andrew died without issue, his vested interest passed to Jennie under the terms of his will.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Burger, J.)
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