Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Hon. Annice M. Wagner, Trial Judge
Rogers, Chief Judge. Farrell, Associate Judge, and Mack, Senior Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Farrell
This appeal asks us to decide whether the words "and other personal property," as used in the will of testatrix Evelyn Parsons, constitute a residuary clause embracing a lapsed bequest of money to the testatrix' sister made elsewhere in the will, or rather, as the District of Columbia (the District) contends, the will contains no residuary clause and the lapsed bequest of money escheats to the District by operation of law. The trial Judge, applying the rule of construction favoring interpretation of a will so as to avoid intestacy (whole or partial), found the phrase in question to be a valid residuary clause embracing the lapsed devise of money. We conclude, however, that the intent of the testatrix is not clear on the face of the will and that, in these circumstances, the obligation of a court to discern the testatrix' meaning in employing the words she did requires a remand for consideration of extrinsic evidence that may bear upon the issue.
Evelyn Parsons died on December 27, 1986, and her will was admitted to probate on January 16, 1987. The estate consisted entirely of personalty. Her will reads as follows:
I, Evelyn Parsons, of the City of Washington, the District of Columbia, being of sound and disposing mind, memory, and understanding, do make, publish, and declare this instrument in writing as and for my last Will and Testament, hereby revoking, annulling, and making void any and all Wills, Testaments, and Codicils by me at any time heretofore made.
ITEM I. I direct my executor, hereinafter named, to pay all of my just debts and funeral expenses as soon after my death as may be convenient. I have prepaid Joseph Gawler's Sons $1,800 to defray my funeral expense. If there is any further expense, I authorize my executor to pay same if he determines it to be just.
ITEM II. I direct that my remains be interred in a lot owned by my deceased husband, Russell C. Parsons, and me in George Washington Cemetery, Riggs Road, Prince George's County, Maryland.
ITEM III. I give and bequeath all money I have on deposit in the Riggs National Bank, Washington D.C., and any other money I may have at the time of my death to my sister, Miss Mabelle Pearson, 100 Norway Street, #608 Marville House, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.
ITEM IV. I give and bequeath my autumn haze mink stroller to my sister, Miss Mabelle Pearson.
ITEM V. I give and bequeath all of the contents of my apartment, furniture, rugs, silverware, china, jewelry, and other personal property, to be divided equally, as possible, at the sole discretion of my executor, among John S. Teunis, B. Scott Teunis, Clayton Teunis, and Edwin H. O. Stokes.
ITEM VI. [appointment of executor].
[Duly signed, executed, and witnessed the 12th of May, 1978].
Evelyn Parsons' sister, Mabelle Pearson, named in Item III and Item IV of the will, predeceased the testatrix without issue. As a result, the personal representative, John S. Teunis, proposed to distribute the monies described in Item III of the will to the four named individuals in Item V. On September 12, 1988, the District filed objections to the proposal made by the personal representative. It asserted that the legacy of monies in Item III had lapsed, and because the beneficiary predeceased the testatrix without issue and the will contained no residuary clause, the provisions of D.C. Code § 18-308 (1989) did not prevent these monies from passing through ...