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Olliffe v. Wells

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
130 Mass. 221 (1881)


In her will, Ellen Donovan devised the residue of her estate to Reverend Eleazer M.P. Wells (defendant) with the proviso that he distribute this gift “to carry out wishes which I have expressed to him or may express to him.” While the will gave Wells discretion to determine the manner in which he would distribute the residue to carry out Donovan’s wishes, which she had orally conveyed to him, the will did not authorize him to receive the gift outright. Donovan’s heirs (plaintiffs) challenged this devise to Wells and requested that the residue be awarded to them. Wells responded in his answer that Donovan had orally expressed to him her wish that the residue of her property be used for charitable purposes, in particular for the benefit of needy people served by the Saint Stephen’s Mission of Boston. Wells confirmed that he intended to use the residue of Donovan’s estate to carry out these purposes and the heirs did not challenge Wells statement of facts in his answer. The case was ultimately appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to determine the validity of the devise to Wells.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Gray, C.J.)

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