An interesting recent Illinois appellate court decision from the First District addressed who may inherit from a testator’s estate when one of the named beneficiaries dies before the testator, with the outcome turning on the meaning of “survivors” as written in the will. Albert Lello, who passed away in 2012, drafted a will leaving his entire $8.2 million estate to his wife and two sisters “in equal shares, or to the survivor or survivors of them.” One sister, Virginia H., predeceased him by seven months. Her four children argued that “survivors” referred to them as the survivors, or heirs, of one of Albert’s named beneficiaries, and they should inherit what would have been her one-third share. The Cook County probate court and First District appellate court disagreed, siding with the two surviving beneficiaries, Albert’s widow and sister Rita S., who argued that the will unambiguously created a class gift that could only be inherited by surviving members of that class.
In 2013, Virginia’s children filed a petition for construction of the will, alleging that Albert would have intended them to inherit Virginia’s share because of the close relationship they shared with him and the fact that he had no children of his own, and that ambiguity in the will as to the “survivors” language should be construed in their favor under state laws of intestate succession. After further motions by both sides, the probate court entered an order finding the will unambiguous as a matter of law. Continue reading ›