This is an action by an executor seeking instructions concerning his duties as well as the construction of certain provisions of decedent's will and codicil.
In 1939 Anna Moore made her will wherein she disposed of her estate including eight 6% perpetual interest-bearing certificates of Public Service Corporation, a New Jersey corporation, registered in her name. These certificates were in various denominations totaling $7,200. The will makes a specific bequest of each certificate to a named beneficiary. Typical of the aforesaid bequests is paragraph Thirty-second of the will as follows:
"I give and bequeath to the Society for the Relief of Respectable Aged Women, a corporation of New Jersey, located at 225 Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Newark, N.J., a Two Thousand Dollar Permanent (sic) Interest Bearing Certificate of the Public Service Corporation, a New Jersey corporation."
In 1943 a codicil was executed making some changes in the will which are not pertinent to the present inquiry. Anna Moore died in 1954 and her will and codicil have been probated. At the time of her death the testatrix did not own any perpetual interest-bearing certificates of Public Service Corporation, but did own a registered $7,200 6%-debenture bond of Public Service Electric and Gas Company. What had happened was that Public Service Corporation was dissolved in 1948 and, under the plan of dissolution,
these certificates were exchanged for the debenture bond in Public Service Electric and Gas Company, one of the successor corporations.
The issue is whether or not there has been an ademption of the legacies of the perpetual interest-bearing certificates of Public Service Corporation.
There is no doubt but that the legacies in question are specific. Each such bequest refers to a particular item of property distinguishable from the other assets of the estate, and the only way the legacy can be satisfied is by delivery and receipt of the property specified.
"A specific legacy is a gift by will of a specific article, or a particular part of the testator's estate, which is identified and distinguished from all others of the same nature, and which can be satisfied only by the delivery and receipt of the particular thing given." In re Low's Estate , 103 N.J. Eq. 435, at page 437 (Prerog. Ct. 1928).
When is a specific legacy adeemed? It would be difficult to propound a rule applicable to all possible situations. However, Chief Justice Gummere adopts the following as an accurate statement of the law of ademption and of its limitations.
"* * * 'A legacy which is specific is adeemed when the particular thing given is wholly lost or destroyed; or is disposed of by the testator during his life; or is so altered by him in its form as to indicate a change of testamentary purpose on his part, an intentional partial revocation of his ...