Texas probate law considers a “class” as a group of persons having a common characteristic. A person may leave personal or real property to a class of persons as a group. For example, an elderly man may designate in his will to leave 200 acres of land he owns in Travis County to his children living at the time of his death. In this article we will discuss class gifts of land in Texas. If you are involved in a class gift situation, you may wish to discuss your case with Austin probate and real estate attorney Farren Sheehan to help determine how the class gifts are treated under Texas law.
The essential elements of a class gift under Texas law are outlined as follows:
A tract of real estate can be left as a class gift. In a 1982 Texas Supreme Court case, Perry v. Hinshaw, 633 S.W.2d 503, 504 (Tex. 1982), a class gift of land was found to have been created by a will providing that:
“The real property … be divided among the surviving sisters and brothers of myself and my beloved husband in the following manner: to my sister, MRS. HATTIE HOHHOF … one-half (1/2); and the remaining half to be divided equally, share and share alike, among the surviving brothers and sisters of my beloved husband, D. E. HINSHAW, the same being WILLIAM HINSHAW, FANNIE STEELE, COSA FRENSLY, LUDA JONES, and VERA PERRY, share and share alike.”
In Perry, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the general words about division among the surviving brothers and sisters were a general statement that was clarified by the more specific disposition that followed. The Court determined that the will made a specific gift of one half of the property, and a class gift of the remaining one half. As the survivor of that class, Vera Perry was entitled to one half of the real property, and the legatees of Hattie Hohhof were entitled to the remaining one-half.
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