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Law School Case Brief

Clark v. Campbell - 82 N.H. 281, 133 A. 166 (1926)

Rule:

By the common law there cannot be a valid bequest to an indefinite person. There must be a beneficiary or a class of beneficiaries indicated in the will capable of coming into court and claiming the benefit of the bequest. This principle applies to private but not to public trusts and charities.

Facts:

Decedent passed and under the terms of her will bequeathed certain property to her "friends." Her "friends" as purported heirs, commenced suit against the state and sought to recover under the will.

Issue:

Is a bequest providing that the trustees under the will shall distribute such articles of the testator's personal belongings as they see fit to such of the testator's friends as they may select valid?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court discharged the complaint. The court held that: (1) the bequest was invalid because it was a bequest to an indefinite person; (2) the term "friends" was too indefinite because it had no accepted statutory or controlling limitation and was not precise at all; and (3) the bequest was not a power to substitute the will of the testator for the will of the trustees to the undefined class of "friends" was irresponsible.

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