Civil Action. Reconstruction of Will.
One Anna B. Stokes died on October 21, 1946, having executed a last will and testament dated October 30, 1943, which was admitted to probate by the Surrogate of the County of Mercer on November 20, 1946. Pursuant to the testamentary nominations in the will, letters were issued to the defendants Trenton Banking Company and Godfrey W. Schroth as executors of the decedent's estate.
It is acknowledged that at the time of the death of the testatrix, two or more of the legatees had predeceased the testatrix. They were not, however, within the classes of relatives or descendants of the testatrix specified in the statute. R.S. 3:2-18, N.J.S.A.
The plaintiff is the adopted daughter of the testatrix, the sole "heir at law" and a beneficiary also under the residuary clause of the will. She has instituted this action to inquire whether under the terms and provisions of her mother's will the lapsed legacies are bequeathed to her or gravitate into the residue of the estate. The executors have been disinclined to pay the proceeds of the lapsed legacies to the plaintiff, but I note with significance that in their answer they unite with the plaintiff in requesting a construction of the will in the particular mentioned.
The following articles of the will have predominant relevancy:
" Sixteenth: Subject to the provisions contained in the foregoing Fifteenth Paragraph of this my last will and testament (payment of inheritance and estate taxes out of residue), all the rest, residue and remainder of my property, of every kind and description whatsoever and wheresoever the same may be situate, I give, devise and bequeath as follows, to wit: --
"(1) A one-fourth part thereof, absolutely and forever to my aforesaid grand-niece, Marion Aldridge.
"(2) A one-fourth part thereof, absolutely and forever, to the aforesaid Lottie Aldridge, the mother of the said Marion Aldridge.
"(3) A one-half part thereof to the aforesaid The Trenton Banking Company of Trenton, New Jersey, as my trustee, to receive, hold, manage and administer the same as a trust fund for the use and benefit
of my aforesaid adopted daughter, Betty Anne Stokes Hawley, for and during the term of her natural life, in the same manner and subject to the same conditions and provisions hereinabove specified in the Ninth Paragraph hereof, with respect to the trust fund of seventy-five thousand (75,000) dollars therein mentioned and thereby established, and to pay, dispose of and divide the said one half part thereof subject to the same contingencies and in the same manner and among the same beneficiaries and in the same order of disposition set forth in the foregoing Sub-Paragraphs (2), (3), (4) and (5), respectively, of the aforesaid Nine Paragraph of this my last will and testament.
" Eighteenth: I desire to die testate as to all my property. Therefore, if, under any contingency not herein provided for there should at any time be no beneficiary sufficiently designated to be capable of identification, as to any part of my estate, whether held in trust or not, such part shall go and be paid, discharged from all trusts whatsoever, to my heirs at law as such heirs ...