Brief Fact Summary. Nelle G. Stewart devised her interest in her late husband’s farm house to two nephews living on her husband’s side of the family. The trial court held the gift was not a class gift. A number of the beneficiary’s children appealed the decision.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Naming an individual beneficiary in a will prevents the gift from being a class gift unless the remaining provision in the will as applied to the facts show that the testator intended to make a class gift.
If from such language it appears that the amounts of their shares are uncertain until the devise or bequest takes effect, the beneficiaries will generally be held to take as a class; but where at the time of making the gifts the number of beneficiaries is certain, and the share each is to receive is also certain and in no way dependent for its amount upon the number who shall survive, it is not a gift to a class, but to the individuals.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether a disposition is a class gift where the testator names two beneficiaries and gives them separate gifts, but the remainder of the will shows the testator desired to gift her property to her “husband’s side of the house.”
Held. No. The testator’s gift did not constitute a class gift because , even though the testator wrote that she desired that her farm lands go to back to her “husband’s side of the house”, she then specified two individuals from her husband’s side and gave each of them specified gifts. The testator only mentioned two members from a class. She did not make a gift to a class. Furthermore, the evidence showed the that the testator knew how to make a gift of survivorship because she created a gift of survivorship of her residue estate in the ninth clause of her will.
Discussion. The Court will not grant an award that goes against the testator’s intent. Here , the will, more likely than not evidenced an intention to give property to specific individuals instead of those who were not named. The testator only wanted two people to inherit her farm lands.