Law School Case Brief
Dawson v. Yucus - 97 Ill. App. 2d 101, 239 N.E.2d 305 (1968)
There is an exception to the rule that naming the individual prevents the gift from becoming a class gift. The mere fact that the testator mentions by name the individuals who make up the class is not conclusive, and that if the intention to give a right of survivorship is collected from the remaining provisions of the will, as applied to the existing facts, such an intention must prevail. This is in accord with the general rule applying to construction of wills, that the intention of the testator, if clearly manifested from the whole will, must prevail over rules of construction. A gift to persons named is a gift to them individually and not as a class, and the court will treat the gift as one to individuals, unless reasons are found in the language and structure of the will for deciding that the intent of the testator, which is, of course, paramount to the rule, would be best subserved by disregarding the rule and treating the gift as one to a class.
In the testator's will, a clause gave two named beneficiaries a portion of her interest in a farm. One of those beneficiaries predeceased the testator, and the surviving beneficiary filed an action to construe the will, claiming that he was entitled to the entire interest conveyed in the clause because that devise was a class gift. The trial court entered judgment for defendants, executrix and residuary beneficiaries, after concluding that the devise was to two specific individuals and that the gift to the deceased beneficiary lapsed and passed into the residuary.
Was the surviving beneficiary entitled to the entire interest conveyed in a clause in the testator’s will?
The Court held that the clause did not create a class gift and that the gift to the deceased beneficiary passed into the residue of the testator's estate under the Illinois Lapse Statute, Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 3, § 49 (1965). There was nothing in the language of the will that indicated that the testator intended to create a class gift, and her creation of a survivorship gift of the residue of the estate indicated that she knew how to manifest such an intent. Thus, the court concluded that the gift was not made to prevent the operation of the Illinois Lapse Statute, which had to be given its effect. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's order in a will construction case that determined that plaintiffs were not entitled to an interest in a will after concluding that the clause in question was not a class gift.
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