Dawson v. Yucus
97 Ill. App. 2d 101, 239 N.E.2d 305 (1968)
Stewart died leaving a valid
will. The will gave half of Stewart's interest in some land to her nephew
Wilson, and half to her nephew Burtle.
Burtle predeceased Stewart.
The land was originally
owned by her late husband and Stewart stated that she wanted to give it
back to the husband's side of the family.
The nephews were her
husband's brother's children, they were not related to Stewart by blood.
All lapsed gifts go along with
the residual estate, which in this case went to Yucas, who was also the
Wilson contested the will. He
claimed that he and Burtle were a class, and that since Burtle was dead, Wilson should get 100% of the
interest in the land.
A class gift is one where a testator gives $$$ to a class of people, such as
"all my children."
Different States deal with anti-lapse issues involving class gifts differently.
Wilson then gave his half of
the property to Burtle's two kids (represented by Dawson), and dropped out
of the lawsuit.
Probably what was happening
was that Dawson lived on the property and Wilson wanted him to have the
whole thing free and clear. If the gift to Burtle lapsed, then it went to Yucas, who was not a family
The Trial Court found for
Yucas. Dawson appealed.
The Trial Court found that
there was a latent ambiguity in
the text of the will.
That allows the Court to
look at extrinsic evidence in
order to determine the testator's intent.
The Trial Court found that
the clause did not create a class gift and therefore under Illinois State law, the gift to Burtle had lapsed and went to Yucas as part of the residual
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court defined
a class gift as, "a gift of
an aggregate sum to a body of persons uncertain in number at the time of
the gift, to be ascertained at a future time, and who are all to take in
equal of in some other definite proportions, the share of each being
dependent for its amount upon the ultimate number of persons."
Yucas argued that since Stewart
named Wilson and Burtle by name in her will, she was not creating a class
gift. She should have done so by
leaving the property to, "my nephews."
However, courts have found
this reasoning to be persuasive, but not conclusive.
The Appellate Court noted
that Stewart gave Wilson and Burtle each "one-half" of the
property. That limited the gift to the two named people, since if a
third nephew had been born, they couldn't have given three people
one-half each. Since the gift was to only be split two ways, it could
not be considered a class gift.
This is true even if Wilson
and Burtle's parents were deceased so it was physically impossible for
the class to increase in
The Court also noted that in
other clauses of the will, Stewart specifically included language about
survivorship, so the fact that it was not included in this clause implied
that she intended it not to be there.