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California Supreme Court confirms Christian Science settlement

STANFORD -- The final chapter in the Christian Science bequest case was closed last month when the California Supreme Court ruled that approximately $100 million from two trusts may be shared by Stanford University, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Christian Science Church.

After years of legal wrangling, the California Supreme Court on Oct. 6 rejected an appeal by heirs of the Mabury and Knapp family seeking to block payment of a proposed settlement agreement among the three parties.

Stanford and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art each will receive between $18 million and $20 million from the trusts of Bella Mabury and sister Eloise Mabury Knapp. The remainder will go to the Boston-based church.

"It's a wonderful outcome for all three of the institutions involved," said John Ford, university vice president for development.

The ruling caps almost five years of litigation over the estates of Mabury and Knapp, who granted large legacies to the church with the stipulation that it meet certain conditions, some of them controversial within the church. If the conditions were not fulfilled, the money was to be split between Stanford and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Considerable debate over whether the terms of the estate had been met by the church prompted the three beneficiaries to hammer out an agreement over the estate two years ago. Court challenges, however, held up the agreement until the recent California Supreme Court ruling.

Since the sisters placed no restrictions on how the contingent beneficiaries could spend the assets, the university will receive its share as an unrestricted, expendable bequest that the president and provost are free to use for any university purpose.



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