Wednesday, June 28, 2006
In University of Southern Indiana v. Baker, 843 N.E.2d 528 (Ind. 2006), the Supreme Court of Indiana rejected the distinction between latent and patent ambiguities. The decedent’s will poured over to her trust, in which she gave all of her automobiles, furnishings, “and other personal property” to her brother, a gift of $10,000 to a friend, and the residue of the trust proper to charity. The probate court found and the intermediate appellate courts affirmed that the language gave all of the decedent’s tangible and intangible personal property to her brother. The Supreme Court reversed based on extrinsic evidence, saying the distinction between latent and patent ambiguities “no longer serves any useful purpose” and that all relevant extrinsic evidence may be considered when resolving an ambiguity.