In Matter of Brignole, the Richmond County Surrogate's Court was asked to decide who was entitled to ownership of the family farm: a decedent's surviving nephew or a charity?
Michael O. Brignole's will created a trust which granted his spouse income for life and, upon her death, any remaining assets were to be donated to charity. There was a specific carve-out to this charitable bequest. Mr. Brignole's will also provided as follows:
"I would like my wife to turn the Farm (Pocono View Farm) in the Poconos to my nephew ... because after speaking to him, he has business acumen."Since Mrs. Brignole died before she could honor her husband's wishes (with respect to the farm's transfer), the New York State Attorney General argued that the farm became part of the "residuary estate" and belonged to charity.
The Richmond County Surrogate's Court disagreed with the Attorney General and concluded that the property should be transferred to Brignole's nephew. On appeal, the Appellate Division, Second Department, sided with the Surrogate:
Upon a sympathetic reading of the entire will, the Surrogate's Court properly concluded that the decedent intended to give his wife the power to take Pocono View Farm (hereinafter the farm) out of the trust and to transfer it to the petitioner, the decedent's nephew .... Further, a letter of intent sent to the petitioner by the attorney for the executor of the decedent's will supports the Surrogate Court's determination that the decedent's wife intended to convey the farm to the decedent's nephew before her death.Finally, a case that makes sense to us!
For a copy of the Appellate Division's decision in Matter of Brignole, please use the following link: http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2006/2006_06332.htm