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Sheridan v. Perkins

June 9, 1947

MARY SHERIDAN, ET ALS.
v.
W. ALLAN PERKINS AND GEORGE PAUSCH, EXECUTORS OF THE WILL AND TRUSTEES OF THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM J. RUCKER, DECEASED, ET ALS



Appeal from a decree of the Corporation Court of the city of Charlottesville. Hon. A. D. Dabney, judge presiding.

Present, All the Justices.

Eggleston

EGGLESTON, J., delivered the opinion of the court.

This appeal involves the construction of the will of William J. Rucker, deceased. The specific question presented is whether an estate amounting to approximately $1,000,000, which the testator inherited from his mother, Mrs. Lucy J. Dun, and referred to in the record and briefs as the "Dun Fund," passed to the residuary legatees, St. Luke's Hospital of St. Louis, Missouri, Martha Jefferson Hospital and Sanatorium, Incorporated, of Charlottesville, Virginia, and The Rectors and Visitors of the University of Virginia, or whether the testator died intestate as to this fund with the result that it passed and descended to his next of kin.

William J. Rucker, for many years a resident of Charlottesville, Virginia, died on December 19, 1941, at the age of sixty-eight years. Although twice married, he died a widower and left no children.

Mr. Rucker was the only child of William Alexander Rucker and Lucy James Rucker. His father died in 1893. His mother married John Dun who died in 1908. Mrs. Dun was a woman of considerable wealth, derived from an interest in the mercantile agency of R. G. Dun & Company. She died testate, in Baltimore, on August 26, 1921.

Mrs. Dun and her son were devoted to each other, but the relationship terminated when Mrs. Dun became ill mentally. On May 6, 1912, she was adjudicated to be non compos and the Safe Deposit and Trust Company of Baltimore was appointed committee of her estate. Upon Mrs. Dun's death the Trust Company qualified as executor and trustee under her last will and testament.

During Mrs. Dun's lifetime and after her death, under the terms of her will, her son received large allowances from her estate and in this manner accumulated a fortune which, exclusive of the "Dun Fund," at the time of his death, in 1941, amounted to nearly $2,000,000.

Mr. Rucker had great confidence in the officials of the Safe Deposit and Trust Company, to whom he looked for guidance and advice in the management of his estate. Prior to 1930 he had, at various times, executed several wills prepared under the direction of the officers of the Trust Company. In 1932 Mr. W. Allan Perkins, a distinguished member of the Charlottesville Bar, became one of Mr. Rucker's legal advisers. Thereafter Mr. Perkins drew for Mr. Rucker four wills, including the one which is the subject of this litigation.

Mrs. Sallie Woods Rucker, the testator's first wife, died December 20, 1932. They were a devoted couple and he gave her every attention during her last lingering illness. On May 24, 1933, he married Miss Helen Tierney. This union was not happy and terminated the following October 5 in a separation agreement. Mrs. Helen Tierney Rucker died on May 3, 1934.

Mr. Rucker, though a man of cultured tastes and wide information, had few intimate friends. With one or two exceptions, he had little contact with his relatives, all of whom were nonresidents of Virginia.

The record furnishes convincing evidence of Mr. Rucker's interest in the three institutions which were named as residuary legatees under his will. To each of these he had made substantial contributions during his lifetime. In previously executed wills he had remembered each quite substantially.

In 1938 Mr. Rucker suffered a severe illness. Perhaps with his mother's experience in mind, he became apprehensive about his condition and determined to set up a trust for his care, support and maintenance should he become incapacitated.

On April 19, 1939, he executed a trust agreement, prepared by Mr. Perkins, under the terms of which he assigned and conveyed to George Pausch, an officer of the Safe Deposit and Trust Company of Baltimore, and W. Allan Perkins, as trustees, certain securities of the then value of $1,800,000. Under the terms of the trust the trustees were to pay to the grantor, or for his benefit, during his lifetime, the net income from these securities. Upon the grantor's death the trustees were to pay out of the fund certain specified amounts to various beneficiaries, including St. Luke's Hospital of St. Louis, Martha Jefferson Hospital and Sanatorium, and The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. Under another provision these three institutions were to share equally in the residuum of the trust fund.

On the same day, April 19, 1939, Mr. Rucker executed his last will and testament, likewise prepared by Mr. Perkins, which is the subject of this litigation. The will specifically mentioned only three relatives. To one he gave an article of jewelry, and to each of the others family portraits.

There were specific devises and bequests to The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, Martha Jefferson Hospital and Sanatorium, and St. Luke's Hospital, which we need not here detail.

Article "Fifth" of the will provides for the settlement of the estate, the payment of estate and inheritance taxes, and vests power of sale in the named executors, W. Allan Perkins and George Pausch. Then follows these declarations:

"(3) By a Trust Agreement of even date with this will, I have disposed of all of my intangible personal property, both during the remainder of my lifetime and after my death. Said Trust Agreement does not include within its terms my real estate, my tangible personal property, or any money I may have in my possession at the time of my death. This will is, therefore, specifically designed to provide for the distribution of said real estate, tangible personal property, and money.

"(4) I have no relatives closer in degree than first cousins;

several of these I am only slightly acquainted with; several of them have substantial means of their own. Under the will of my mother, Mrs. Lucy James Dun, which was admitted to probate in the Orphan's Court of Baltimore County, Maryland, on the 31st day of August, 1921, all of these cousins are provided for: hence, I have not felt it proper to include in this, my will, or in the Trust Agreement of even date herewith, any of my relatives other than those named, for all of whom I have a personal and affectionate regard."

Article "Sixth" is a residuary clause which reads thus:

"I direct that all the rest and residue of my estate, of every kind and description, real, personal and mixed, and wherever situated, shall be divided by my Executors hereinafter named into three equal portions, and I do hereby give, devise and bequeath one of said portions to each of the Institutions hereinafter named, the one-third of the whole of said residue of my estate to be received by each of said Institutions to be applied to such uses and purposes as such Institution may deem best, without restriction or limitation of any sort, except that the one-third ...


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