Legal Memorandum: Administering testamentary gifts to a class

Issue: Under Illinois law, how are testamentary gifts to a class administered?

Area of Law: Uncategorized
Keywords: ; Gift; Testament; Beneficiary; Class Gift
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: 413 Ill. 290
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2016

The supreme court has stated that "[a] gift to a class is defined 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 or some other definite proportions, the share of each being dependent for its amount upon the ultimate number of persons." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) O’Connell v. Gaffney, 23 Ill.2d 611, 616-17 (1962). "One of the essential features of a class gift is that the number of the persons who are to take the property is to be ascertained at a future time. A gift to persons who are both numbered and named in the language of gift is prima facie or by initial presumption a gift to them as individuals notwithstanding they are also designated in general terms as by relationship to the testator to others." O’Connell, 23 Ill.2d at 617. In O’Connell, for instance, the supreme court found no class gift where the testator’s will provided that half of his estate was to "’be paid in equal shares, to my two brothers, James Gaffner and Edward Gaffney of Ireland.’" O’Connell, 23 Ill.2d at 613. The court there noted that "[i]n our opinion, nothing appears from the general plan of disposition, or from any special relationship of [the testator] to his two brothers, or from the failure of [the testator] to change his will after the death […]

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