IN RE: the ESTATE of Spencer H. CHARTERS

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District Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 2, California.

IN RE: the ESTATE of Spencer H. CHARTERS, Deceased. SECURITY-FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF LOS ANGELES, Petitioner, Appellant and Respondent, v. Irene Marie Charters YEAKEL, Contestant and Respondent, Laura Hoerner, Legatee, Respondent and Appellant.

Civ. 20634.

Decided: May 27, 1955

Henshey & Beeman, Hollywood, for appellant Security-First Nat. Bank. Robertson, Harney & Behr; David Robertson; Ruth Michaelson, Los Angeles, for respondent Irene Marie Charters Yeakel. Charles P. Lester, guardian ad litem, in pro. per.

From an order giving a trustee instructions pursuant to a request therefor, the trustee appeals.

Chronology

i. Irene Maries Charters Yeakel, hereinafter referred to as Irene, is the only daughter of Irene Meyers Charters and Spencer H. Charters. She was born June 15, 1931.

ii. Irene's mother died January 2, 1942.

iii. January 25, 1943, Irene's father, Spencer H. Charters, died leaving a will dated February 12, 1942, reading in part as follows:

‘Fifth: In the event my daughter, Irene Marie Charters, survives final distribution of my estate, I give, devise and bequeath the residue of my estate, real and personal, wherever situated, hereinafter termed the ‘trust estate’, to Security-First National Bank of Los Angeles, a national banking association, in trust, to hold, manage and distribute as hereinafter provided:

‘(A)(1) Until my daughter, Irene Marie Charters, attains the age of Twenty-one (21) years, my Trustee shall distribute to her, or for her use and benefit, such sums or amounts in monthly installments as may be necessary for her proper support, maintenance and education, using therefor so much of the principal of the Trust Estate as may be necessary if the net income available for distribution is insufficient.

‘(2) From and after the date upon which my daughter, Irene Marie Charters, shall attain the age of Twenty-one (21) years, my Trustee shall pay to my said daughter, during her lifetime or until the termination of the Trust Estate, such sum or amount monthly which, when added to the payments which she may receive from any insurance policies on my life, shall amount to a monthly income of Two Hundred Dollars, ($200.00). If the income available for distribution is not sufficient to make the aforesaid monthly payments my Trustee shall use such part of the principal as may be necessary to make such monthly payments.

‘(3) My Trustee shall permit my daughter, Irene Marie Charters, and her guardian or such person as may be entrusted with her care, to use and occupy my residence at 1745 North Vista Street, Los Angeles, California, for so long a time as they may desire without payment of rent and without deduction from any of the payments herein provided. In connection with such use, my said daughter or her guardian or such person as may be entrusted with her care, shall, so long as she or they desire, have the use, without charge, of the household furniture and furnishings, silver, books, pictures, paintings, works of art, and bric-a-brac which may be located in said residence.

‘(4) When and at such time as my daughter, Irene Marie Charters, shall cease to occupy my home at the above address the Trustee shall make such disposition of the personal property used in connection with said home as it may deem advisable.

‘(5) Should any of my jewelry become a part of the Trust Estate the same shall be distributed to my daughter, Irene Marie Charters, at such time as, in the opinion of the Trustee, she is qualified to receive and care for the same.

‘(6) In addition to the payments hereinabove provided for my daughter, Irene Marie Charters, my Trustee shall pay to her the sum of Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) from the principal of the Trust Estate on the date upon which she attains the age of Thirty (30) years, and an additional sum of Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) from the principal of the Trust Estate on the date upon which she attains the age of Thirty-five (35) years, and an additional sum of Five Thousand Dollers ($5,000.00) from the principal of the Trust Estate on the date upon which she attains the age of Forty (40) years of age.’

iv. On or about the 5th of February, 1943, Security-First National Bank of Los Angeles was appointed Successor Guardian of the estate of Irene, in the matter of the Guardianship Estate of Irene Marie Charters, a minor, Los Angeles County Superior Court No. 215,784.

v. By the decree of distribution in the Estate of Spencer Charters, deceased, the Security-First National Bank of Los Angeles, was declared to be the trustee of the testamentary trust created under the will of said deceased. One of the assets in the estate so ordered to be distributed was the family residence of deceased, known as 1745 North Vista Street, Los Angeles. The material provisions of the will, relative to the creation of the trust, were incorporated in the decree of distribution.

vi. November 6, 1951, Irene married.

vii. On or about July 16, 1946, the trustee, without notice to the guardian of the estate, and without filing a petition with the court for authority to sell the family residence, sold the residential property of decedent for $23,615.75, which sum was then made a part of the principal of the trust.

viii. On June 24, 1947, in the trustee's third account current appears the following: ‘(a) The stucco bungalow carried herein at $11,000.00 was sold for the sum of $25,000.00. After paying the commission of the real estate broker and the expenses of sale, the transaction resulted in a profit of $12,615.75.’

An order was made by the court settling and approving this account.

ix. By reason of the fact that Inene had married and was receiving only $45.48 per month, and that the residential property had been sold and the proceedings added to the principal, a considerable amount of income in cash had accumulated, and for the purpose of determining what to do with such sums, the trustee filed its petition for instructions, requesting that it be instructed as to the disposition of the accumulated and undisposed of income.

After hearing the trial court made, among others, the following findings:

‘IV

‘That on February 5, 1943 the Security-First National Bank of Los Angeles, a national banking association, was appointed guardian of the Estate of Irene Marie Charters (then a minor); that said guardian presented its inventory of the assets of said minor's estate; that the testamentary trust of Spencer H. Charters, deceased, under paragraph Fifth (A)(3) of the Last Will and Testament of Spencer H. Charters, gave the right to the use and occupancy of certain residence property located at 1745 North Vista Street, Los Angeles, California to Irene; that said right was in the nature of a Life Estate and that said right and/or estate was not listed in said inventory as an asset of said minor's estate.

‘V

‘That on or about the 16th of July, 1946 the Trustee of decedent's estate under said Last Will and Testament sold the real property at 1745 North Vista Street, Los Angeles, California. That said sale was made without notice to the guardian of said minor's estate, and said guardian did not file its petition with the Court for authority for it to sell said estate of the minor. That by reason of said sale, the Trustee obtained $25,000.00 which sum was then made a part of the corpus of said Trust and has since said date and does now make up a portion of the said Trust Estate.’

Pursuant to the request for instructions an order reading in part as follows, dated April 30, 1954, was made:

‘1. That petitioner, as Trustee, under the Last Will and Testament of Spencer H. Charters, deceased, and under the Decree of Distribution made in this cause on or about the 23rd day of May, 1944 be and it is hereby ordered to either purchase a home and residence with suitable furnishings for the occupancy of Irene Marie Charters Yeakel which shall be as nearly equal in value as reasonably possible to the home and furnishings located at 1745 Vista Street, Los Angeles, California, and which were sold by said trustee on or about the year 1946, or to provide Irene Marie Charters Yeakel with a sum sufficient to rent a furnished home of the value, approximate quality and desirability as the residence at 1745 Vista Street, Los Angeles, California which was previously occupied by Irene Marie Charters Yeakel, and sold by the Trustee as aforesaid.

‘2. It is further ordered that Paragraph Fifth (A)(2) of the Last Will and Testament of Spencer H. Charters and Paragraph Fifth (A)(2) of the Decree of Distribution made in this cause be interpreted as a direction to the Trustee that Irene Marie Charters Yeakel should receive a minimum of $200.00 per month, including benefits from insurance policies received from sources outside the Trust Estate as well as income of the Trust Estate.

‘3. It is further ordered that petitioner utilize any income remaining after it has provided the minimum of $200.00 per month including insurance payments received by Irene Charters Yeakel outside of the Trust to meet its obligation to provide for Irene Marie Charters Yeakel's reasonable support, care and comfort.

‘4. The intent of Spencer H. Charters as found from a reading of his Last Will and the Trust therein contained, and upon analysis of the facts surrounding execution of said Will, is interpreted to mean that excess income, if any, after petitioner has carried out the terms of this Order, shall not be accumulated but shall be distributed to Irene Marie Charters Yeakel.’

Questions: First: Did the probate court have jurisdiction to consider on the petition for instructions the matter of the sale of deceased's residence?

Yes. There is no merit in appellant's contention that since it reported that sale of the residence in its third account current as trustee and the court, by its order dated July 17, 1947, approved the said account that all matters covered therein have become final and no longer come under the supervision of the probate court.

When the third account was rendered to the court and approved, the beneficiary of the trust was a minor of the age of 16 years, and her estate was under the guardianship of appellant who was also the trustee. Since Irene was a minor and therefore under a legal disability she was not bound by the court order approving the account. Otherwise the effect thereof would be to deprive her of a property right, namely, the right to use and occupy the residence.

The law is settled that minors have the right to move to reopen an account affecting their property rights at any time before final distribution. (Probate Code, § 931; Kidell v. Ketler, 146 Cal. 12, 18, 79 P. 514; Ringwalt v. Bank of America, etc., Ass'n, 3 Cal.2d 680, 683[1], 45 P.2d 967.)

Second: Did the court by its instructions interpret the will of decedent or did it make a new one?

By the instructions of the court it interpreted the will. It did not make a new one.

These rules are here controlling:

(1) An appellate court is not bound by a trial court's construction of a will when it is based solely upon the terms of the instrument without the aid of evidence. The appellate court must make a final determination as to the meaning of the instrument in accordance with applicable principals of law. (In re Estate of Platt, 21 Cal.2d 343, 352[4], 131 P.2d 825.)

(2) A will must be read as a whole and all parts thereof are to be construed together and in relation to each other so as to form, if possible, a consistent whole. (In re Estate of Northcutt, 16 Cal.2d 683, 688[3], 107 P.2d 607.)

(3) A court's inquiry in construing a will is limited to ascertaining what the testator meant by the language which was used. (In re Estate of Beldon, 11 Cal.2d 108, 112[2], 77 P.2d 1052.)

From a reading of the provisions of the will of decedent set forth above, we are of the opinion that the testator's intention was in accordance with the instructions given to the trustee by the probate court.

At the time of the probate court's order dated April 30, 1954, there was no person in being in the category set forth in section 733 of the Civil Code. Hence such section is not applicable to the facts of the present case.

In view of our conclusions it is unnecessary to discuss other questions presented by counsel.

Affirmed.

McCOMB, Justice.

MOORE, P. J., and FOX, J., concur.