Law School Case Brief
Minary v. Citizens Fid. Bank & Tr. Co. - 419 S.W.2d 340 (Ky. 1967)
When one rule of law does violence to another it becomes inevitable that one must then give way to the other. It is of paramount importance that man be permitted to pass on his property at his death to those who represent the natural objects of his bounty. This is an ancient and precious right running from the dawn of civilization in an unbroken line down to the present day. Kentucky adoption statutes are humanitarian in nature and of great importance to the welfare of the public. However, these statutes should not be given a construction that does violence to the above rule and to the extent that they violate the rule and prevent one from passing on his property in accord with his wishes, they must give way. Adoption of an adult for the purpose of bringing that person under the provisions of a preexisting testamentary instrument when he clearly was not intended to be so covered should not be permitted.
Amelia S. Minary's will was executed on April 4th, 1932. After making several bequests of cash to various beneficiaries to pass immediately, the will created a trust, the income of which is directed to be paid to her husband and three sons. The proceeds of the trust were to be paid in the "absolute and uncontrolled discretion" of the trustees. The trust terminated upon the death of the last surviving beneficiary, and upon termination, the corpus would be distributed to her surviving heirs, according to the laws of descent and distribution then in force in Kentucky, and, if no such heirs, to the First Christian Church. The testatrix died in 1932 and her husband died in 1935. The testatrix was survived by four children, including two sons, James and Alfred, who died without issue. After the testatrix's death, Alfred adopted his wife, Myra, as his child prior to his death. The trial court declared that a beneficiary's adoption of his wife prior to the beneficiary's death allowed the wife to be named as an heir of the testatrix and enabled her to take under a trust managed by the bank trustee. The beneficiaries appealed.
Did the son's adoption of his wife make her eligible to inherit under the provisions of his mother's will?
The court reversed the judgment of the trial court allowing the wife to inherit under the will as an heir of decedent. Instead, the court held that when an adult was adopted for the sole purpose of making him or her an heir and claimant to the estate of an ancestor under the terms of a testamentary instrument known and in existence at the time of the adoption, the practice was an act of subterfuge which thwarted the intent of the ancestor whose property was being distributed and cheated the rightful heirs. Accordingly, the court concluded that the wife was not able to inherit under the will as an heir of decedent.
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