The Law School Authority

In re Bosler’s Estate Case Brief

Summary of In re Bosler’s Estate, 378 Pa. 333, 107 A.2d 443 (1954)

Facts: Pet’s mother passed testate leaving all to her six children equally.  Three created a trust out of their portions subject to spendthrift trust provision.  On death the principal went to issue, failing issue then living children could appoint the remainder by will, or if defaulting under both options remainder to decedent’s descendents.  Pet is 65 yo, civilian employee of the Navy likely to retire soon.  His earning are meager and b/c of rising costs of living he projects the inability to support himself and his wife.

Issue: Whether modifications to the terms of a spendthrift trust can result in a termination of the trust by a court?

Holding: Not without statutory authority.

Procedure: Mr. Bosler, life beneficiary, petitioned for decree to terminate trust w/ a spendthrift provision. Probate Ct ordered partial relief by amending distribution of the corpus to aid in Pet’s support. Decree reversed and petition dismissed.

Rule: Where a life interest in a trust is limited by a spendthrift provision, the trust cannot be terminated by a court.

Rationale: A court of equity may decree a trust’s termination if all the interested parties are in existence and in agreement, and the purpose of the trust has been accomplished.   But if the purpose has not been fully accomplished, and if the settlor is deceased and incapable of consenting, the trust cannot be terminated.

Here the settlor is deceased.  It would be speculation as to whether she would now want the body of the trust turned over.  She must have realized that future changes would occur in both the income and the situation of the beneficiary.  If she had intended to authorize the trustee to advance portions, she would have provided for that event. She did not.

Spendthrift trusts allow the donor to control his bounty.  That form of trust protects the donor’s right of property, and the law’s only concern is to give effect to the will of the donor as expressed, not the will of the donee.

If the settlor is alive, and concurs with all the parties in interest to modify or terminate the trust, the existence of a spendthrift provision will not prevent termination.

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