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BERKS COUNTY TUBERCULOSIS SOCIETY APPEAL (04/20/65)

decided: April 20, 1965.

BERKS COUNTY TUBERCULOSIS SOCIETY APPEAL


Appeal from decree of Orphans' Court of Berks County, No. 318 of 1963, in re account of Girard Trust Corn Exchange Bank and Charles T. Nagle, trustees of The Musser-Custer Memorial Fund, et al.

COUNSEL

H. Ober Hess, with him Benjamin R. Neilson, Mark C. McQuillen, and Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll, for appellant.

Harold J. Ryan, with him Samuel B. Russell, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen.

Author: Roberts

[ 418 Pa. Page 113]

This case arises out of a dispute between Berks County Tuberculosis Society, appellant, and Reading-Berks Tuberculosis and Health Association,*fn1 appellee, each of which claims that it is the income beneficiary under a provision of an inter vivos trust known as "The Musser-Custer Memorial Fund."*fn2 The trust instrument,

[ 418 Pa. Page 114]

    dated April 29, 1943,*fn3 contained provisions for the distribution of certain income from the corpus of the trust in designated percentages to fifteen charitable organizations. Each party here claims that it is the beneficiary under the paragraph which gives "Six per cent (6%) thereof to The Tuberculosis Society of Berks County, of Reading, Pennsylvania."

The court below concluded: "There is no organization in existence which meets the exact measure or name as used by the Settlors of the trust. There is a latent ambiguity in the instrument as to whom the Settlors intended to receive 6 per cent of the income from the trust." Finding that there was a latent ambiguity, the court received evidence of settlors' intent to assist it in determining the identity of the beneficiary. After making findings of fact and conclusions of law, the court held that the intended beneficiary was Reading-Berks Tuberculosis and Health Association. Following the filing of exceptions and absolute confirmation of the decree nisi, Berks County Tuberculosis Society filed this appeal.

The decree of the court below must be reversed. Although appellant's correct name is "Berks County Tuberculosis Society" and not "Tuberculosis Society of Berks County", it is possible to determine the identity of the beneficiary with certainty from the language of the trust instrument without resort to extrinsic evidence of the settlors' intent. We have stated repeatedly that extrinsic evidence is not admissible to prove intent

[ 418 Pa. Page 115]

    when the beneficiary designation in the instrument specifies a recipient with sufficient exactitude to clearly indicate a person or organization legally qualified to take. E.g., Houston Estate, 414 Pa. 579, 201 A.2d 592 (1964); Beisgen Estate, 387 Pa. 425, 128 A.2d 52 (1956); Logan v. Wiley, 357 Pa. 547, 55 A.2d 366 (1947); Wusthoff v. Dracourt, 3 Watts 240 (Pa. 1834).*fn4 Although the settlor may actually have intended to benefit some other recipient, evidence of that fact is inadmissible if the designation in the trust instrument identifies with clarity another recipient.*fn5 It is not required that the designation conform in every minute detail to the name of a person or organization. This is particularly so when a corporate or organizational name is involved. Lockwood's Estate, 344 Pa. 293, 25 A.2d 168 (1942). It is only necessary that the designation unambiguously identify a subject to which the terms of the trust are obviously applicable.

Admission of evidence to show the intent of the settlor is the exception and not the rule for the sound reason that the writing itself must be considered to be the best and controlling evidence of the settlor's ...


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