Souder v. Johnson, 4-86-0943

Decision Date04 February 1987
Docket NumberNo. 4-86-0943,4-86-0943
Citation12 Fla. L. Weekly 458,501 So.2d 745
Parties12 Fla. L. Weekly 458 Ronal W. SOUDER, Appellant, v. Kathleen B. JOHNSON, as personal representative of the estate of Dr. Arthur M. Edwards, and Lawrenceville School and Al Koran Shrine Hospital for Crippled Children, Appellees.
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals

Rohan Kelley and James A. Herb of Kelley & Herb, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for appellant.

James G. Pressly, Jr., of Gunster, Yoakley, Criser & Stewart, West Palm Beach, for appellees--Lawrenceville School and Al Koran Shrine Hosp. for Crippled Children.

LETTS, Judge.

The trial court ruled that the devise of a villa-type condominium and its "contents" did not include stock certificates or the proceeds from financial institutional passbooks found on the premises. We affirm.

The decedent's stepson, who was the recipient of the villa, is not content with that inheritance and essentially claims the remainder of the estate, predicated on the theory that the meaning of the word "contents" found in the will, was ambiguous. As a consequence, he argues that extrinsic evidence should have been admissible to resolve the ambiguity and establish that the testator intended, in this particular instance, that the word "contents" encompass the stock evidenced by certificates and the cash represented by the passbooks and bank statements found in the house. 1

Surprisingly, this particular controversy has never been resolved by a Florida court. However, we have no difficulty in aligning ourselves with the majority view, nationwide, which holds that only tangible personal property is contemplated when defining house "contents." Annotation What Passes Under Legacy or Bequest of Things Found or Contained in Particular Place or Container, 5 A.L.R.3d 466 (1966). As a corollary, intangible personal property, exemplified by stock certificates and bank accounts, are not included in that definition.

The stepson's argument is not without merit, however. He posits that if the testator had bequeathed a "shoe box and its contents" there would be no question that stock certificates contained therein would come within such a testamentary disposition. Sub judice, he equates a shoe box as being synonymous with a condominium villa. We do not agree with that equation.

It is uniformly recognized that extrinsic evidence is not admissible to vary, contradict ... or to show a different intention on the part of the testator from that disclosed by the language of the will. Id. at 482. Obviously, such extrinsic evidence is not to be countenanced if there is no ambiguity, latent or patent, which affects the ability to carry out the terms of the testamentary instrument. Id. at 482.

The word "contents" cannot be defined in isolation, but must be...

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6 cases
  • Davis v. Shanks
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • August 25, 1994
    ... ... Souder v ... Johnson, 501 So.2d 745, 746 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1987) ...         Where the meaning ... ...
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals
    • April 22, 2004 on the premises at the time of the decedent's death." In re Estate of Lawson, supra, 792 So.2d at 980; see also Souder v. Johnson, 501 So.2d 745, 746 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1987)(devise of house and its "contents" did not include stock certificates or proceeds from financial institution passbo......
  • Ludwig v. AmSouth Bank of Florida
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • January 8, 1997
    ...544 (Fla.1986). Extrinsic evidence should be considered only if the language used in the document is ambiguous. See Souder v. Johnson, 501 So.2d 745 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987). The trust instrument for Fisher Trust No. II may not be entirely clear concerning all possible future distributions, but ......
  • Robinson v. Robinson
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • July 10, 1996 and erred by accepting evidence of the grantor's intent. Adkins v. Woodfin, 525 So.2d 447 (Fla. 4th DCA 1988); Souder v. Johnson, 501 So.2d 745 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987); Campbell v. Campbell, 489 So.2d 774 (Fla. 3d DCA We find no error as to any other issues raised. DELL and KLEIN, JJ., co......
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