Woodworth died. His will left
some money to his wife Mamie. The rest went into a testamentary trust. That trust gave Mamie a life income. After her death, the money remaining in the
trust went to Woodworth's sister Elizabeth, or her heirs if she does not
survive longer than Mamie.
Woodworth also had two
brothers. Both predeceased him, but one had two children.
Elizabeth survived Woodworth,
but died before Mamie. She was survived by her husband, who then died and
left his estate to the University of California.
Elizabeth died intestate.
Mamie died. The successor
trustee (Wells Fargo Bank) petitioned the Probate Court to help determine
who the money in the trust should go to.
Woodworth's nieces and nephews
argued that who Elizabeth's heirs are should be determined using the date
of Mamie's death.
That would mean that since anti-lapse applies, the $$$ would pass to Elizabeth's
surviving heirs at the time of Mamie's death, namely them.
The argument is that
basically that Elizabeth owned nothing until Mamie died, therefore the
bequest to her didn't occur until after she was dead.
The University of California
argued that the date of Elizabeth's death should be used.
That would mean that the
$$$ would pass to her husband which would then pass to his heir, namely
The argument is that
Elizabeth was vested at the time of her death, which basically means
that she 'held title' to the money in the trust, and even though she
didn't get possession until Mamie's death the money (aka future
interest) was part of her estate and
transferred to her husband.
The Probate Court found that
the date of Mamie's death should be used to determine who the heirs-at-law are. The University of California appealed.
The Probate Court looked
only at the plain language of the trust provision and did not consider
any extrinsic evidence.
The Appellate Court reversed
and said the date of Elizabeth's death should be used to determine who the
The Appellate Court looked
to the common law, which said that when a gift has been made to 'heirs'
of a named individual (Elizabeth), then the testator has said in effect that he wants the property
distributed as the law would distribute it if the named person died intestate.
Therefore, the normal time
for applying the statute of descent or distribution is at the death of
the named individual.
Therefore the future
interest in Woodworth's estate went
along with Elizabeth's estate to her husband's estate to the University
The Appellate Court noted
that there is an exception. If the testator manifests an intention that the statute of
descent be applied at an earlier or later time, then that intention takes
For example, Woodworth
could have said that the $$$, 'would go to and vest to Elizabeth'.
The Appellate Court also
noted an exception in cases in which the distribution is dependent on
survivorship (such as a class gift).
In cases like that, vesting
does not occur until it is 100% determined who should get the gift,
which is based on who is still alive when the person with the life
But in this case, the money
was definitely going to Elizabeth regardless of when she died, therefore
nothing was dependent on survivorship.
Under the Uniform Probate
Code § 2-711 says the opposite of the
common law and claims that the gift takes effect when the person comes
into possession. Therefore, the money would not have become Elizabeth's
until Mamie died. Since Elizabeth was already dead, that gift would go to
Elizabeth's children under anti-lapse.
In order to defeat anti-lapse, you have to have clear and
convincing evidence of survivorship,
as well as further information such as, "and if she doesn't survive,
then the money goes to..."