When last will and testament is unclear as to individuals specified

Let’s say “Jack” dies and his will says “I bequeath $100,000 to my cousin, Alice.” Problem is, he has two cousins named Alice and he has provided no additional information whatsoever as to which one is being referred to. Do they have to split the money 50/50 or do they go to court and try to present a more convincing case to the judge that they are the one being referred to (i.e., “I was close friends with Jack and we talked frequently whereas he barely spoke to the other Alice more than once a decade?”)

If Alice and Alice can agree, everybody’s happy. If they can’t, ultimately the executor can apply to court for directions, and the court will hear evidence relevant to the question of which Alice the testator is more likely to have intended.

And if the court is not able on the material before it to determine between them, the gift will fail for uncertainty.

Unless there are $millions involved (and probably even then), the two Alices will be far better off if they can agree the split.

Take it to court and the legal fees could easily swallow the inheritance. Tell them to read Bleak House by Charles Dickens and see what happened in Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

My wife and I just redid our will. We had to give last names and current addresses of everyone we designated as a recipient in the will. I would hope that Jack’s attorney did the same.

What if he names Alice Smith, but in the time since the will was written, she’s gotten married, and is now Alice Jones?

What if his other cousin Alice, nee Baker, has also now married an unrelated man named Smith? Now there’s currently exactly one “cousin Alice Smith”, but it’s not the same individual as when the will was written.

Doesn’t the implication that the guy didn’t remember how many cousin Alices he had kinda throw the whole ”I, Jack, being of sound mind thing into question?

IANAL but I think the judge (or whoever) would look at the date the will was written and realize which Alice was meant. Assuming it got that level of scrutiny.

There’s lots of explanations beyond “he’s no longer of sound mind”. Maybe everyone calls 2nd Alice “Cookie” because she’s baker, and he completely forgot her legal name is Alice. Maybe she uses her middle name, and he didn’t even realize her legal name is Alice. Maybe he hasn’t thought of her in years.

This happens a lot more than most people think. I had a grandmother whose first name I thought I knew until I read her obituary.

Did they ask you to provide the birthdates of the recipients as well? That would definitely end any confusion as to who is intended as the recipients.

“This is my brother Larry and my other brother Larry…”

The ultimate answer in all these sort of problems is - if it gets that far, what does the judge think?
I assume the burden of proof, this being a civil matter, is “preponderance of evidence”? If it appears 50% more likely he meant Alice #1 (i.e. hasn’t talked to #2 in a decade, #1 visited him in hospital every week…) then that’s the likely scenario. If it seems they can’t really tell, then no deal?

Plus, if the evidence shows that’s how everyone and especially Jack referred to someone, then it does not matter if that’s their first or middle name or nickname?

IANAL but it seems … When it comes to interpreting the evidence (as opposed to “letter of the law”) the interpretation is tempered with common sense…

When I was setting up the beneficiaries for my retirement account, the webform asked that I provide the Social Security numbers for my beneficiaries. So that’s another way to make clear who you’re referring to. (Although that required a slightly awkward conversation in which I had to ask for the SSNs for my brother’s children.)

But what if your cats don’t have SSN’s? :smiley:

Hell, this happened to my own mother, about her own name. A few years past we received the original copy of her birth certificate after my grandmother passed away, and instead of having the simple name “X”, she was listed with a compound name “X-Y”. We have some speculation about what happened, but we really don’t know for sure.

This. The question here is not “what is the legal name of . . .” or “what is the proper form for referring to . . .”. It’s “who did the testator actually have in mind?” - a question of fact, not of law.

And, tangentially, when they take you to court for steeling the money they don’t care what your name is. And they will get irritated if you play games. Only question the magistrate is gonna ask is “are you somebody else entirely?”. If not, STFU.

But your honor, on my computerised birth certificate from the 1950’s the name is in all caps. So that mixed case name is not mine…

Exactly. I assume - as a civil suit - if the evidence “we think he meant X” outweighs the evidence for “we can’t be sure” then X it is. Facts.

George Foreman’s estate is going to be a damn mess.

One hope that Foreman’s will states something like “divided equally amongst all of my surviving children”, or the like.