H. L. Shannon, as executor of Lawson Kelley's estate, filed a petition in the Superior Court of Coffee County, praying for a construction of his testator's will and for direction in making a distribution of the estate among the several legatees. The prayers of his petition were pursuantly granted on October 8, 1951; and from that judgment Remember Kent and Mrs. Boatright, two of the legatees, sued out a writ of error to this court; but in Kent v. Shannon, 209 Ga. 8 (70 S.E.2d 376), and for the reasons therein stated, we dismissed their bill of exceptions on April 15, 1952. On August 9, 1952, Mrs. Claude Kent Carswell and sixteen others, alleging themselves to be nieces and nephews of the deceased Lawson Kelley and legatees under his will, filed a petition in the same court, naming H. L. Shannon, executor aforesaid, and Mrs. Mildred C. Scott as the parties defendant, and praying for an order construing and clarifying the decree of October 8, 1951, and particularly those parts which deal with a stated amount of money the executor had on hand and had received in satisfaction of an insurance policy the testator carried with a named life insurance company, and with certain cash in the executor's possession, which the testator had received from the sale of designated realty, bequeathed by item 22 of his will. A copy of the decree of October 8, 1951, was attached to the petition as an exhibit, but no copy of the executor's will, appears in the record. The attached copy decree shows that the court, after construing the testator's will, directed the executor to pay over and deliver to Mrs. Mildred C. Scott all money and property bequeathed to her by several enumerated items of the will, including the proceeds collected by the executor from the testator's life-insurance policy, and the money received by the testator from the sale of bequeathed realty. The petitioners state several reasons, and cite many authorities, in support of their contention that the testator's will was incorrectly construed by the court, and that
1. Judgments and decrees speak for themselves, and our rules of procedure, pleading, and practice in civil actions make no provision for a proceeding to construe and clarify them. See, in this connection, Bingham v. Citizens & Southern Nat. Bank, 205 Ga. 285 (53 S.E.2d 228); 16 Am. Jur. 295, § 23; and Lawrence v. Lawrence, 87 Ga.App. 150 (73 S.E.2d 231), and the authorities there cited. For such relief, the petition failed to state a cause of action, and was therefore subject to general demurrer.
2. But the petition questions the correctness of the decree of October 8, 1951, and in effect seeks an order modifying and revising it. Treating it then as a motion to modify and revise the decree, it must also be held that the petition failed to state a cause of action, since the term during which the decree was rendered had terminated before this proceeding was instituted, and the court was without power to modify and revise it. "The authorities all hold that a court has plenary control of its judgments, orders and decrees during the term at which they are rendered, and may amend, correct, modify, or supplement them, for cause appearing, or may, to promote justice, revise, supersede, revoke, or vacate them, as may in its discretion seem necessary." I Black on Judgments, § 153. But after "the expiration of the term at which a judgment or decree was rendered, it is out of the power of the court to amend it in any matter of substance or in any matter affecting the merits." Ibid., § 154. Therefore, as "a general rule, it is unquestionably true that no act of the court, as contradistinguished from the acts of its officers or of the parties, can be allowed to be amended but during
Judgment affirmed. All the Justices concur, except Atkinson, P. J., not participating.