In re Carroll’s Will
274 N.Y. 288, 8 N.E.2d 864 (1937)

  • Carroll died and his will established a testamentary trust. The trust gave a life income trust to his wife. After his wife’s death, the trust would be split into two parts; one part would be used for a life income trust for his son (Ralph) and the other would be used for a life income trust for his daughter (Elsa).
    • The will specified that Elsa could leave the principle in her trust to their “to her children or any other kindred who survive her in such manner as she think proper.”
    • That’s known as a special power of appointment.
    • Carroll’s will also had a clause saying that if Elsa did not exercise her power, then the money would go her kids. If she had no kids, the money would revert back to Carroll’s estate to be given to his surviving heirs.
      • Elsa’s kids were therefore takers by default.
  • Elsa died without any kids.
    • Elsa really wanted to leave the money to her husband, but she couldn’t do that because the special power of appointment didn’t allow her to leave money to non-relatives.
    • Elsa’s will gave $5k to Ralph, $250k to her cousin Paul, and the rest into a trust.
      • Paul sent Elsa a letter promising to pay Elsa’s husband (Foster) $100k if he inherited the $250k from her.
      • Elsa could not legally will the money from her father’s trust to her Foster because he wasn’t “kindred.”
    • Elsa had previously tried to write a clause into her will leaving her share of the trust to her brother Ralph with a request that he pay $10k a year to Foster, but her lawyer adviser her that the clause wasn’t enforceable.
  • When Elsa’s will was submitted for Probate, the Probate Court found that the promise made to Paul “so vitiated and permeated the bequest that the appointment constituted a fraud upon the power and made the bequest to him void.” Paul appealed.
  • The Appellate Court partially reversed. Paul appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that the unenforceable part of the will was the $100k that Elsa wanted Paul to give to Foster, but that the other $150k that Elsa wanted Paul to have free and clear was ok.
  • The New York Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court and found the entire $250k gift to Paul to be void.
    • The New York Supreme Court found that it was impossible to say how much Elsa would have given Paul if they didn’t have a deal. Therefore it is impossible to separate the $150k from the $100k. Hence, the entire bequest must be void.
      • Plus, Paul had unclean hands, so he doesn’t deserve to take.
  • The Halsbury’s Laws of England suggest that the exercise of a power of appointment may be held fraudulent if:
    • The execution was made for a corrupt purpose,
    • It was made in pursuance of an antecedent agreement to benefit persons not objects of the power, or
    • It was made for purposes foreign to the power.
  • Elsa had a complete power to give the money to any relative she wanted for any reason. However, that power is limited when there is a bargain to benefit a non-object of the power.