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The paramount rule of construction in the interpretation of provisions in a will, to which all other rules are subordinate, is that the intention of the testatrix as garnered from all parts of the will is to be given effect, and that doubtful or seemingly inaccurate expressions in the will shall not override the obvious intention of the testatrix. In construing a will, the court should place itself as nearly as possible in the situation of the testatrix when she made the will, and from such a consideration and from the language used in every part of the will the court should determine as best it can the purposes and intentions of the testator as gleaned from the language used.
In 1981, Caroline H. Myers executed her will, which provided for a trust for the care, support, and maintenance of her son, appellee Darrell Edward Myers Jr. She bequeathed the sum of $ 110,000 to the trust. Upon her son's death, the principal and any undistributed income were to be distributed to Caroline's daughter and granddaughter, or the survivor thereof. Caroline H. Myers died in 1989. The trust was funded on November 20, 1989. Appellee had been receiving public medical assistance from the State prior to the death of Mrs. Myers and the funding of the trust in 1989. Appellee apparently suffered from severe mental and physical disabilities for several years although the record does not indicate when he began receiving public assistance. In July of 1990, appellant Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services terminated appellee’s medical assistance when he failed to return an annual eligibility review form. Appellee reapplied for assistance but it was denied by the appellant claiming that appellee had resources which exceeded the eligibility level established by appellant’s regulations. The denial notice stated that assets held in trust for appellee were considered available to meet his medical needs. After several reapplications and denials, appellee appealed the appellant’s decision denying him medical assistance. Said decision was affirmed by the administrative hearing officer, and this was affirmed by the State Appeals Committee. Appellee then filed a petition for judicial review. The district court issued its judgment and found that the trust established in the will to be a discretionary trust. Because neither the principal nor income were available to appellee, appellant could not consider the trust assets in determining appellee’s eligibility for public medical assistance. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Did the lower courts err in determining that the trust was a discretionary trust in which the assets were considered unavailable to appellee for the purpose of determining his eligibility for public medical assistance?
The court affirmed both judgments. The court ruled that since the meaning and intent of the trust language set forth in the will was the question on appeal, the court held that its determination was directed to the specific language used by the testatrix in the document. That while the court were concerned with the construction of the specific language in this particular will, there were certain fundamental rules and principles to be considered and applied. Hence, the court determined that the trust was discretionary because the nondiscretionary language of "shall" pertained primarily to the management functions of the trust and did not control or override the discretionary language of "as my trustee deems advisable." Thus, the court determined that the trust was established to assist in the care and support of the applicant during his lifetime and that that purpose could not be met by a complete exhaustion of the trust assets in a short period of time.