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Bankers Trust Co. v. Crane

Decided: October 27, 1961.

BANKERS TRUST COMPANY OF NEW YORK, LILLIAN F. STEWART AND HARRY L. BULL, EXECUTORS AND TRUSTEES UNDER THE WILL OF CHARLES FAUPEL, LATE OF THE COUNTY OF HUDSON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BERTRAM F. CRANE, CHARLES F. CRANE, WILLIAM F. CRANE, CHARLES M. MAY, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF HARRIET B. CRANE, DECEASED, DEFENDANTS



Collester, J.s.c.

Collester

The plaintiffs, Bankers Trust Company of New York, Lillian F. Stewart and Harry L. Bull, executors and trustees under the will of Charles Faupel, deceased, bring this action seeking instructions from the court as to the performance of their duties with respect to the provisions of said will based upon a question arising from a property settlement made in a divorce case by Bertram Crane, one of the beneficiaries under said will. The pertinent facts are as follows:

The defendant, Bertram Crane was married to Harriet Crane on August 22, 1925 and two children were born of the marriage, Charles F. Crane and William F. Crane. In 1946 while the Cranes were residents of the State of Illinois, Harriet Crane instituted a suit for separate maintenance against her husband and pending the hearing thereon entered

into a property settlement agreement, dated March 4, 1946, which provided, inter alia , as follows:

"It is further agreed by and between the parties hereto that the wife shall be entitled to one-half of any property that the husband may acquire by inheritance, devise or bequest and the husband does hereby assign to the wife an undivided one-half interest in any property, whether real, personal or mixed that he may at any time in the future inherit or receive by devise or bequest from his mother or from any other person whatsoever, excepting any future spouse and her relatives, and the husband will deliver to the wife the said one-half interest immediately upon his coming into possession of any property as aforesaid." (Emphasis added)

Thereafter Mrs. Crane amended her suit to one for absolute divorce, and on March 12, 1946 a decree of divorce was entered in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, which provided, inter alia:

"It is further ordered, adjudged and decreed that plaintiff shall be entitled to one-half (1/2) of any property, real, personal or mixed, that defendant may at any time in the future acquire by inheritance from his mother or from any other person whatsoever, excepting any future spouse and her relatives, and that the defendant deliver to plaintiff the said one-half (1/2) interest immediately upon his coming into possession of any property as aforesaid." (Emphasis added)

On July 16, 1951 Bertram Crane and Harriet Crane entered into a stipulation which was filed in the Illinois court and which provided that Crane pay $5,000 to Harriet Crane in full settlement of all alimony, past, present and future. Said stipulation further provided that the aforesaid provision with reference to expectant future interests of Bertram Crane would remain in full force and effect.

Charles Faupel, the decedent, an uncle of Bertram Crane, died a resident of Jersey City on February 27, 1959, leaving the will in question which was duly probated on March 10, 1959.

After making certain specific bequests in said will the testator directed that his residuary estate be divided into two equal parts. He gave to the defendant, Bertram Crane, a one-eighth part of one of said equal parts.

The other equal part the testator devised and bequeathed to his executors as trustees to be set aside as a trust fund, with directions to pay out of the income and principal thereof such monies as might be needed to provide for the support, maintenance and medical care of his sister, Anna F. Crane (Bertram Crane's mother). No payments were to be made from such trust fund until Anna F. Crane had first exhausted all of her own money.

The will further provided that upon the death of Anna F. Crane, seven-eighths of said equal part would be divided into seven parts and one of said seven parts would be paid over to Bertram Crane -- "or in the event of his death ...


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