Brief Fact Summary. Decedent left a will giving the residue of his estate to “my nieces and nephews.” Plaintiffs, who are children of the decedent’s wife’s siblings allege that this phrase should be interpreted to include them.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Courts will construe the language used in a will in its legal, technical, and ordinary meaning. When the language is clear and unambiguous extrinsic evidence will not be admissible to show the testator’s intent.
Words with a well known technical meaning should be construed according to their technical meaning unless a contrary meaning clearly appears from the context of the will.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Does the terms used in the decedent’s will “my nieces and nephews” include nieces and nephews by consanguinity and those by affinity?
Held. No. Affirm. The trial court was correct in holding that “my nieces and nephews” only included those children of Archie’s brothers and sisters.
Discussion. There is nothing in Archie’s will to indicate an intent that “nieces and nephews” means anything more than their legal, technical, ordinary meaning. The Court sites to several cases and treatises in which the ordinary and legal definition of “niece and nephew” is defined to include only the immediate descendants of the brothers and sisters of a person. The Court notes that if Archie had intended to include Dortha’s nieces and nephews he would have used the words “our nieces and nephews” instead of “my nieces and nephews.” Because the words are clear and unambiguous extrinsic evidence of the testator’s intent was inadmissible.