Edwards v. Edwards (In re Edwards' Estate), No. 45771.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtBLISS
Citation300 N.W. 673,231 Iowa 71
Docket NumberNo. 45771.
Decision Date18 November 1941
PartiesIn re EDWARDS' ESTATE. EDWARDS et al. v. EDWARDS.

231 Iowa 71
300 N.W. 673

In re EDWARDS' ESTATE.
EDWARDS et al.
v.
EDWARDS.

No. 45771.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Nov. 18, 1941.


Appeal from District Court, Hardin County; H. E. Fry, Judge.

A suit in equity for the construction of the will of decedent. The widow, as such, and as executrix of the estate moved to dismiss the petition. Hearing was had upon the pleadings and certain stipulated facts and matters shown by the estate files. Decree was entered sustaining the contentions of the widow and executrix as alleged in her motion. On appeal of the petitioners, the decree is affirmed.

[300 N.W. 674]

Pasley & Pasley, of Ames, for appellants.

W. H. Soper, and D. W. Dickinson, both of Eldora, for appellee.


BLISS, Justice.

E. C. Edwards died testate January 31, 1934, leaving a widow, Alice Edwards, the appellee, a daughter, Lois Catlin, by an earlier marriage, and a grandson, Robert Catlin, son of Lois. The daughter and the grandson are the appellants. There was no issue of the marriage of the testator and Alice Edwards. In addition to some personal property, the testator, at the time of his death, owned four hundred acres of land in Hardin County, Iowa, and a residence property in the town of Alden. His will was probated and his widow was appointed executrix, and qualified as such.

[1][2][3] Since a suit for the construction of a will can be maintained only if its meaning is uncertain or ambiguous (Anderson v. Meier, 227 Iowa 38, 287 N.W. 250;Anderson v. Anderson, 227 Iowa 25, 31, 286 N.W. 446;Anderson v. Conklin, 229 Iowa 232, 235, 294 N.W. 339;Ransom v. Mellor, 230 Iowa 451, 454, 297 N.W. 861;First M. E. Church v. Hull, 225 Iowa 306, 311, 280 N.W. 531), and the only purpose of the judicial construction of any testamentary disposition of property is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the testator if this can be done without violating public policy or any rule of law (Guilford v. Gardner, 180 Iowa 1210, 1220, 162 N.W. 261;In re Estate of Huston, 224 Iowa 420, 425, 275 N.W. 149;Brown v. Brown, 213 Iowa 998, 1000, 240 N.W. 910;In re Clifton's Estate, 207 Iowa 71, 76, 218 N.W. 926; 19 Iowa Digest, Wills, 439), and since that intention is to be gathered from the will as a whole, reading each provision in the light of every other provision, giving effect to each and every part, if possible (Benham v. Turkle, 173 Iowa 598, 602, 603, 153 N.W. 1017;Bellamy v. Bellamy, 184 Iowa 1193, 1195, 1197, 169 N.W. 621;In re Estate of Pottorff, 216 Iowa 1370, 1373, 250 N.W. 463;Luitjens v. Larson, 222 Iowa 1320, 1321, 271 N.W. 239;Bradford v. Martin, 199 Iowa 250, 201 N.W. 574;In re will of Richter, 212 Iowa 38, 43, 234 N.W. 285;Blackford v. Anderson, 226 Iowa 1138, 1172, 286 N.W. 735;Starr v. Newman, 225 Iowa 901, 904, 281 N.W. 830;Jones v. Coon, 229 Iowa 756, 759, 295 N.W. 162;DeKoster v. Roggen, 229 Iowa 938, 942, 295 N.W. 440; see 19 Iowa Digest, Wills, 450), we set out the material parts of the decedent's Will:

“Par. 1. I give, bequeath and devise all of the property of which I die possessed or seized, to L. A. Watson as my executor, in trust for the purposes hereinafter stated, and I hereby authorize and empower my said executor to collect all moneys and credits due me at the time of my death and to sell and dispose of all other personal property of every kind and nature, of which I die seized (except household goods) as soon after my death as he shall deem it expedient to do so, and out of the proceeds thereof I direct that all my just debts and the expenses of my burial be paid, and the residue thereof to be disposed of as follows:

Par. 2. Subject to Paragraph One I direct that my executor distribute the balance of the assets from the sale of the personal property and the moneys and credits coming into his hands as follows: that he deliver to my beloved wife, Alice Edwards one-third of said sum and that he deliver to my beloved daughter, Lois Catlin two-thirds of said sum.

Par. 3. I hereby direct that my executor hold and keep the North Half of Section Fifteen and the North Half of the South West Quarter of Section Fifteen, Twp. Eighty Eight North Range Twenty Two West of the Fifth P. M. Hardin County, Iowa, until my beloved grandson, Robert Catlin shall arrive at the age of twenty-one years and that he rent said real estate until said child arrives at the age of twenty-one years, at such times and prices and upon such terms as to him shall seem for the best interest of all parties concerned and out of the rentals therefrom that he first pay all taxes of every kind and nature assessed against the estate and other sums which may become a lien against the property belonging to the estate and that he make such improvements upon said described land as he shall deem necessary for keeping the buildings and land in tenantable condition and pay for the same out of the rentals thereof and to pay the cost of keeping the buildings on said premises insured at all times in a reasonable sum.

Par. 4. Subject to the foregoing paragraphs I direct that my executor pay the

[300 N.W. 675]

net proceeds remaining in his hands from the rentals of the above described farm, one-third to my beloved wife, Alice Edwards, and two-thirds to my beloved daughter, Lois Catlin as soon after the rents are collected as to him shall be deemed advisable.

Par. 5. I direct that my executor hold and keep Lot Six in Block Four in the Original Plat of Alden, Hardin County, Iowa, and all household goods of which I die seized for the use and occupancy of my beloved wife, Alice Edwards so long as she shall live and that the taxes and upkeep of said premises and the cost of keeping the buildings insured in a reasonable sum be paid by my executor out of the income from my estate.

Par. 6. I direct that my executor shall at the time my grandson, Robert Catlin should arrive at the age of twenty-one years old or as soon thereafter as may be, sell the farm hereinbefore described owned by me at the time of my death upon such terms and for such prices as to him shall seem for the best interests of all parties concerned and out of the proceeds thereof first pay all expenses therewith and divide the balance of the proceeds one-third to my beloved wife, Alice Edwards and two-thirds to my beloved daughter, Lois Catlin.

Par. 7. Whereas my beloved wife, Alice Edwards and I have no issue it is my desire that whatever property is held by my wife from my estate descend to my beloved grandson, Robert Catlin. My beloved wife has been a dutiful and loving wife, our married life has been of short duration, the estate which I possess was created and established by me prior to our marriage, I do not wish to deprive her of her legal interests in my estate, I have heretofore waived any and all rights to any interest which I may have had in and to any inheritance she may have been entitled to, and as a matter of courtesy to me I ask that she leave at her demise to my beloved grandson heretofore named whatever property she may have which she received from my estate.”

As will be noted, there was no residuary clause in the Will. Neither was there any disposition of the residence property or the household goods, after their life use by the widow, unless, as claimed by the petitioners, they became the property of the grandson under paragraph seven of the Will.

The widow elected to take under the Will. The petition for the construction of the will was filed in probate. To this petition, the widow and executrix filed a special appearance alleging that jurisdiction to construe a will lies in the district court on the equity side rather than on the probate side. All parties having consented, the cause was transferred to equity.

The petition alleged: the relationship of the parties; that the grandson had attained his majority, and the farm had not been, but should be, sold, and the proceeds divided; that there was some difference of opinion as to the construction of the will; and that it should be taken by its four corners, and be construed to carry out the intentions of the testator; that under paragraph seven of the will, Alice Edwards was to receive one-third of the proceeds of the sale of the farm to use for the upkeep of the residence property, and that upon her death the balance of this one-third, and the residence property, with the household goods should go to Robert Catlin, as residuary property. Relief was prayed in conformity with the allegations.

The grounds for dismissal as alleged in defendant's motion were in substance that: the first paragraph of the will devised all of the property to the executor in trust, and the subsequent paragraphs, down to number seven, were specific directions governing the trust; paragraph seven contained only a precatory request to the widow as devisee, and was not a devise to the grandson; the will gave a clear and unequivocal bequest to the widow; and, there was no ambiguity in the Will requiring construction.

[4] The trial court found that all property bequeathed to the widow in paragraphs one, two, four, and six of the will, was given to her absolutely and unconditionally to be her own without qualification, and that the residence property and household goods, described in paragraph five, were given to her for use during her life. The court further found that paragraph seven was merely the expression of a wish on the part of the testator, and that if it could be construed as a disposition to the grandson, of any property bequeathed to the widow in the preceding paragraphs of the Will, it was repugnant to and inconsistent with such absolute bequests, and must, therefore, fall. These findings were expressly made a part of the decree of the court with the same force and effect as though set out in the decretal part thereof. The court also decreed that the grandson,

[300 N.W. 676]

Robert Catlin, took nothing whatsoever under the Will. We are in full accord with the findings and decree of the able trial court.

Counsel for the appellants have ably and...

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15 practice notes
  • Syverson v. Syverson (In re Syverson's Estate), No. 47222.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 15, 1948
    ...N.W.2d 512;In re Estate of Thomas, 220 Iowa 50, 54, 261 N.W. 622;Ransom v. Mellor, 230 Iowa 451, 454, 297 N.W. 861;In re Edwards' Estate, 231 Iowa 71, 72, 73, 77-78, 300 N.W. 673;Creel v. Hammans, 234 Iowa 532, 534, 13 N.W.2d 305;In re Estate of Austin, 236 Iowa 945, 949, 20 N.W.2d 445, 162......
  • Moore v. McKinley, No. 48580
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 8, 1955
    ...destroy or place a limitation on such title. The subsequent limitation being void for repugnancy.' See also In re Estate of Edwards, 231 Iowa 71, 79, 300 N.W. 673; Bradford v. Martin, 199 Iowa 250, 253, 201 N.W. 574; In re Estate of McCulloch, 243 Iowa 449, Page 84 459, 52 N.W.2d 67; Iowa C......
  • McCulloch's Estate v. Conrad, No. 47921
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 4, 1952
    ...241 Iowa 447, 452, 41 N.W.2d 102; Lytle v. Guilliams, 241 Iowa 523, 525-526, 41 N.W.2d 668, 16 A.L.R.2d 1377; In re Estate of Edwards, 231 Iowa 71, 77-78, 300 N.W.2d 673; Richards v. Richards, 155 Iowa 394, 396, 136 NW. 132; Elberts v. Elberts, 159 Iowa 332, 334, 141 N.W. 57; In re Estate o......
  • Creel v. Hammans, No. 46308.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 7, 1944
    ...and not a fee. Of course, the important consideration in the construction of a will is the intent of the testator. In re Edwards' Estate, 231 Iowa 71, 77, 300 N.W. 673, 676. The effect of our holding is that the fee was left undisposed of by will and passed to White's heirs at law. Ransom v......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Syverson v. Syverson (In re Syverson's Estate), No. 47222.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 15, 1948
    ...N.W.2d 512;In re Estate of Thomas, 220 Iowa 50, 54, 261 N.W. 622;Ransom v. Mellor, 230 Iowa 451, 454, 297 N.W. 861;In re Edwards' Estate, 231 Iowa 71, 72, 73, 77-78, 300 N.W. 673;Creel v. Hammans, 234 Iowa 532, 534, 13 N.W.2d 305;In re Estate of Austin, 236 Iowa 945, 949, 20 N.W.2d 445, 162......
  • Moore v. McKinley, No. 48580
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 8, 1955
    ...destroy or place a limitation on such title. The subsequent limitation being void for repugnancy.' See also In re Estate of Edwards, 231 Iowa 71, 79, 300 N.W. 673; Bradford v. Martin, 199 Iowa 250, 253, 201 N.W. 574; In re Estate of McCulloch, 243 Iowa 449, Page 84 459, 52 N.W.2d 67; Iowa C......
  • McCulloch's Estate v. Conrad, No. 47921
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 4, 1952
    ...241 Iowa 447, 452, 41 N.W.2d 102; Lytle v. Guilliams, 241 Iowa 523, 525-526, 41 N.W.2d 668, 16 A.L.R.2d 1377; In re Estate of Edwards, 231 Iowa 71, 77-78, 300 N.W.2d 673; Richards v. Richards, 155 Iowa 394, 396, 136 NW. 132; Elberts v. Elberts, 159 Iowa 332, 334, 141 N.W. 57; In re Estate o......
  • Creel v. Hammans, No. 46308.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 7, 1944
    ...and not a fee. Of course, the important consideration in the construction of a will is the intent of the testator. In re Edwards' Estate, 231 Iowa 71, 77, 300 N.W. 673, 676. The effect of our holding is that the fee was left undisposed of by will and passed to White's heirs at law. Ransom v......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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