Trust Provision interpreting distribution to someone who dies before distribution is complete.

Bryan v.Dethlefs, 959 So. 2d 314 (FIa. 3d DCA May 16, 2007)

The decedent’s trust stated,

“Upon my death, the then balance of principal and accumulated income remaining in the trust fund shall be distributed to my grandson, Robert R. Bizzell, if he is living at the time of distribution.”

The trust provided for distributions to other beneficiaries if Bizzell was not living.
Bizzell survived the decedent, but died intestate prior to receiving complete distribution of the trust assets, Bizzell’s half-sister one of the beneficiaries of his estate asserted the trust instrument vested the assets with Bizzell at the time of the decedent’s death, The appellants argued the trust assets vest only at the time of distribution and all undistributed assets should therefore be distributed to them as the decedent’s beneficiaries.

The lower court agreed with Bizzell’s half-sister and the appellate court affirmed, reviewing that the law favors early vesting of estates and any doubts should be resolved in favor of vesting.

The court determined the trust provision in question mandated distribution upon the death of the decedent and the last clause of the sentence “if he is living at the time of distribution” could lead only to the conclusion that the time of distribution intended by the decedent was at his death.

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