“A Righteous Decision” American Sentinel 9, 35, pp. 276, 277.

SOME months since a Roman Catholic died in Buffalo, N.Y., leaving seven children. Previous to her death she divided among these children $1,200. She then made a will by which she bequeathed the whole of her remaining estate, $1,000 in trust to Nicholas Bashman, to be used by him in paying for “masses for the benefit of my poor soul, and for the benefit of the soul of my deceased husband.” The seven children contested the will. Mr. Bashman had been left with discretionary power to pay the money for the masses to any church he chose. The attorney for the children appeared before the surrogate, and opposed the admission of the will to probate on the following grounds:—

1. That the trustee has too much discretion.

2. That a soul has no standing in a temporal court.

3. That the trust is illegal, not being for the benefit of any living human being.

In arguing the case he set forth the following points:

a. The very existence of the soul after death has never been proved.

b. That its alleged immortality has never been sustained by facts.

c. That the whole subject of a hereafter is a matter of pure speculation.

d. That the law requires that trust should be for the benefit of living human beings, and this creates a trust for the benefit of a soul which may possibly be nonexistent.

c. Further, he raised the question whether the soul, it immortal, would derive any benefit from the masses said.

At the hearing of the case recently it was shown, in addition to the facts already stated, that the maker of the will was of sound mind and memory, and the will was properly made. She directed that all her debts, doctor’s bills, and funeral expenses should be paid, and that the balance should be applied to masses, as already stated. In rendering his decision the judge said:—

The intent of the testator is the rule of construction. The most sacred duty the court can perform is to give [277] full force to the intentions of the deceased…. She had a right to appropriate her money as she deemed reasonable and proper, to offer masses for the remission of her and her dead husband’s sins. The direction, “a Roman Catholic Church in Buffalo,” is not indefinite.

The court very properly declined to consider the question of the immortality of the soul, dismissing it with the remark that it was enough to know that the testator believed it. The decision is just. The property of the testator was her own. She might have directed that it should be used in erecting a monument to her memory, or to providing a memorial window to some church, but instead she elected that it should be devoted to masses for herself and her deceased husband. It is true that the masses could be of no possible benefit to either herself or her husband, but that is a question outside the jurisdiction of any civil court. [278]

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