Scheduling Open
6671 Southwest Fwy, Ste 490-A
By Appointment Only

Does Adding Class Descriptions to a Texas Will Create Class Gifts?

When drafting a will in Texas, it’s important to carefully consider how your property will be distributed after your passing. One important aspect to consider is whether to create a class gifts by adding class descriptions to your will. But what exactly is a class gift and how does it work in Texas?

It’s important to understand how this works and some of the benefits of this approach before you make any decisions.

What is a Class Gift?

When you create a will in Texas, you have the option of adding class gifts to your estate plan. A class gift is a bequest that is given to a group of people, rather than an individual. You can use a class gift to leave money or property to your family, friends, or any other group that you choose.

Class gifts can be an important part of your estate plan, because they can help you ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. If you have specific instructions for how you want your assets to be divided among different groups of people, a class gift can help you achieve that goal.
It is important to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you draft an effective and legally-binding document.

Probate Case Law

In Texas, the addition of class descriptions to a will does not create class gifts. This was made clear in the probate case law decision from the Texas Supreme Court, in Perry v. Hinshaw, 633 S.W.2d 503 (Tex. 1982). Prior to this decision, there was some confusion on whether or not adding class descriptions to a will created class gifts.

It was determined that if a testator includes class descriptions in their will, it is presumed that they do not intend to make class gifts. This presumption can only be overcome if there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.

Facts and Procedural History

When Lydia Hinshaw constructed her will, she left Hattie Peterson a life estate to the income from rental property. Once Peterson died, Lydia stated she wanted one-half of the rentals to go to her sister, Hattie Hohhof and the other half to be divided equally among the remaining brothers and sisters of her and her husband. Vera Perry was the sole survivor of the brothers and sisters. When Peterson passed away, John L. Wilson and Methe Wilson were her sole residuary legatees.

Vera sought judgment for fee simple title to all the property. She contends she is entitled to the entire rental property as sole survivor of a class consisting of the brothers and sisters of both Lydia Hinshaw and her husband, D. E. Hinshaw.

The trial court rendered judgment that: specific devises were intended; all but Vera Perry’s specific devise lapsed and passed to Hattie Peterson through the residuary clause; John L. Wilson and Methe Wilson were entitled to 11/24ths undivided interest in the rental property; and Vera Perry was entitled to 1/12th undivided interest in the rental property. The court of appeals affirmed.

Supreme Court Appeal

Vera appealed to the Texas Supreme Court contending the will’s statement that the property is to be “divided among the surviving sisters and brothers of myself and my beloved husband” creates a class gift.

The court disagreed and held that that was a general statement that is clarified by more specific disposition which follows, devising 1/2 of the rental property to her sister and 1/2 to her husband’s surviving brothers and sisters. The specific provisions control over the general statement. It stated that when specific beneficiaries are named and a class description is added, the class is only there for identification.

Whenever a testator’s intent is clear, there is no need to look at rules of construction.

The Supreme Court held that Vera Perry is entitled to an undivided 1/2 interest in the rental property. The remaining 1/2 devised to Hattie Hohhof lapsed, passed to the residuary legatee Hattie Peterson, then passed to John L. Wilson and Methe Wilson, the sole residuary legatees of Hattie Peterson. 

What Are the Benefits of Adding Class Descriptions to a Will?

Adding class descriptions to your will can provide benefits for both you and your beneficiaries. Some benefits of adding class descriptions to your will include:

1. You can specify how your assets should be distributed among different groups of people.

2. You can make sure that each beneficiary receives a share of the assets that is proportional to their need or importance to you.

3. You can change the distribution of assets among different classes of beneficiaries over time, as your circumstances or the needs of your beneficiaries change.

4. You can provide for contingencies in the event that some beneficiaries cannot be located or do not survive you.

5. Adding class descriptions to your will can simplify the probate process by providing clear instructions to the court regarding the distribution of your assets.

6. The process of making your will is faster because you don’t have to portion out each thing to each individual person.

How Do You Create a Class Gift in a Will

In order to create class gifts in a will in Texas, the testator must include specific language in the will that designates the gifts as such. The testator can designate how the assets in each class are to be distributed among the beneficiaries in that class. For example, the testator could give all of the assets in one class to one beneficiary and divide the assets in another class equally among several beneficiaries.

Additionally, you will need to include a description of the class in your will. Simply using the term “class” or a similar term is not enough to create a class gift in Texas. The language used in the will must clearly indicate the criteria for membership in the class, such as “my grandchildren born to my children,” or “all of my living siblings and their descendants.”

This ensures that the intended beneficiaries are clearly identified and the distribution of the gift is carried out as intended. The description should include the names of all the members of the class, as well as how they are related to you. For example, you might describe your family as “my wife and children,” or “my siblings and their descendants.”

Are There Any Drawbacks?

There are some drawbacks to using class gifts. First, if the classes are not properly defined, it may be difficult to determine which assets belong to which class. Second, if the classes are not carefully considered, it is possible that some assets may end up in the wrong class. Finally, if the estate is not large enough to support all of the planned class gifts, some classes may receive nothing.


Perry v. Hinshaw shows that adding a class description after stating specific beneficiaries does not create a class gift. The reason for this is because class gifts can only be created by adding a provision to the will specifically stating that the assets are to be divided into classes and distributed accordingly. Without such a provision, the assets will simply be distributed according to the terms of the will.

Do you need an Experienced Probate Attorney to help?

If you are considering adding class descriptions to your Texas will, you may wonder if you need an experienced probate attorney to help. The answer is maybe. While the process of adding class descriptions to a will is generally straightforward, there may be some complex legal issues involved in your particular situation.

For example, if you have a large estate or complex financial situation, you may need an attorney to help ensure that your assets are properly distributed according to your wishes. Additionally, if you have minor children, you’ll want to make sure that their interests are protected in your will.

An experienced probate attorney can advise you on whether or not adding class descriptions to your will is right for your situation and can help ensure that your wishes are carried out correctly.

Our Houston Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients, including helping with disputes between heirs. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process. We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation.


The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information presented may not apply to your situation and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney. We encourage you to seek the advice of a competent attorney with any legal questions you may have.

Immediate DownloadFREE Access to Our Texas Probate Guide

Don't miss out, get a copy today!

Related Posts