Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Seidel v. Werner case brief

Seidel v. Werner case brief summary
364 N.Y.S.2d 963 (1975)

Plaintiff trustees sought a declaratory judgment to determine who was entitled to one half of the principal of the trust fund left by the decedent. The dispute concerned the manner in which the decedent exercised his power of appointment. Defendants, decedent's second wife, their children, and the decedent's third wife filed motions for summary judgment. The trustee also filed a motion for summary judgment.


The children claimed the decedent's entire share of the trust remainder on the basis of a foreign consent judgment of divorce, obtained by the decedent against the second wife. The decedent executed a will, which instead of exercising his testamentary power of appointment in favor of the children, left everything to his third wife. The children argued that the foreign divorce decree altered this result.


  • The court held that the divorce decree did not direct the decedent to exercise his power of appointment, or to do anything at all with respect to the power, but merely "approved" the separation agreement as fair and reasonable. 
  • It was clear that the parties did not intend a release of the power of appointment. Under the separation agreement, the power was to be exercised so that the entire property would be for the benefit of the children. 
  • Under the trust instrument, on default of exercise of the power, the property went to the children. 
  • Thus, the agreement provided for appointment of a greater principal to the children than they would get in default of appointment. 
  • Therefore, the separation agreement was not the equivalent of a total or partial release of the power of appointment.

In regard to the motions for summary judgment, the court awarded a one-half share of the trust to the third wife.

Suggested Study Aids For Wills, Trusts & Estate Law

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