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Dawson v. Yucus

    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.

    Facts. Stewart devised her interest in her late husband’s farm house to two nephews living on her husband’s side of the family. She wrote, “.. believing as I do that hose farm lands should go back to my late husband’s house, I therefore give, devise and bequeath my one-fifth (1/5) interest in the lands as follows: one-half (1/2) of my interest therein to Stewart Wilson, a nephew, now living in Birmingham, Michigan and One-half (1/2) of my interest to Gene Burtle, a nephew, now living in Mission, Kansas. Burtle and Wilson were close to Stewart . Burtle predeceased Stewart. When the will was offered for probate, the trial court ruled that the gift did not constitute a class gift. It found that because Burtle died before Stewart, a latent ambiguity was created and the court admitted extrinsic evidence showing evidence of Stewart’s intent. The testimony showed that Stewart wanted the proeprty to go to her husband’s side of the house or to Gene Burtle and Stewart Wilson.

    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.


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