Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
186 N.E. 86 (1933)
Helen A. Sullivan, an unmarried sixty-four year old school teacher, hired an attorney 10 days before her death to draft a will for her. When he asked who she wanted to leave the residue of her estate to and who her closest relatives were, she said she had twenty-five first cousins who she wanted to share the residue equally. Her attorney drafted a will that left the residue of her estate to her “heirs at law living at the time of my decease . . . . to be divided among them equally, share and share alike.” The attorney read the will to Sullivan and she signed it. However, when Sullivan died, her sole heir at law was her maternal aunt. Some of Sullivan’s first cousins filed a petition for distribution of a legacy, which the probate court denied, holding that the language “heirs at law” was not ambiguous, and therefore testimony of Sullivan’s stated intentions could not be introduced to prove the meaning of the language used in the will. The cousins appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Rugg, C.J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.
Here's why 220,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 14,100 briefs, keyed to 189 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.