Where the decedent’s will ambiguously identified the beneficiaries, the circuit court erred by concluding that the decedent’s executor was the sole beneficiary.
Mark Gabi apparently drafted his own will using a template found on the internet. The will named his brother, appellee Mohamad Nidal Aljabi, as executor. When Gabi died, he was married to appellant Sarangerel Dagvadorj and had two children from a prior marriage, Amanda Wafa Algabi and Maya Noor Algabi.
Mohamad Algabi filed a complaint for guidance regarding the administration of Gabi’s estate and asserted that he was the will’s sole beneficiary. The trial court agreed, prompting an appeal by Dagvadorj.
“When Gabi’s will is read as a whole, it fails to clearly identify the intended beneficiaries of Gabi’s estate. Certain provisions of the will imply that Gabi intended to give his entire estate to Aljabi. Other provisions, however, imply that Dagvadorj and Gabi’s daughters were intended to receive at least some portion of Gabi’s estate.
“The section of Gabi’s will that is entitled ‘Distribution of the Estate’ does not refer to any specific property. Furthermore, this section of the will does not expressly name Dagvadorj, Gabi’s daughters, or Aljabi as beneficiaries.
“Although the ‘Preliminary Declarations’ section of the will refers to Dagvadorj and Gabi’s daughters, another section of the will implies that Gabi intended to disinherit them. The ‘General Provisions’ section of the will includes the following provision: ‘18. Individuals Omitted From Bequests’
“‘If I have omitted to leave property in this Will to one or more of my heirs as named above or have provided them with zero shares of a bequest, the failure to do so is intentional.’
“As Gabi named Dagvadorj and his daughters in the ‘Preliminary Declarations’ section of the will, Section 18 suggests that Gabi intentionally refrained from giving them any part of his estate.
“Nevertheless, other provisions of the will imply that Gabi intended to leave at least a portion of his estate to Dagvadorj and his daughters.”
However, “[i]n the section of the will entitled ‘Additional Provisions,’ Gabi appears to give his entire estate to Aljabi. This section of the will states: ‘22. Additional Provisions’
“‘All my properties, assets, bank accounts, 401k, and everything I own will be given to my brother Mohamad Nidal Aljabi where he can administer my wishes after my death.’
“Although Section 22 gives Gabi’s entire estate to Aljabi, the provision contains language that may limit the scope of this transfer. Notably, Section 22 directs Aljabi to ‘administer [Gabi’s] wishes after [his] death.’
“As Aljabi is the executor of Gabi’s estate, Gabi may have intended to leave his estate to Aljabi to hold in trust, for eventual distribution to other beneficiaries (i.e., Dagvadorj and Gabi’s daughters).”
“In light of the substantial ambiguity concerning Gabi’s intended beneficiaries, the circuit court erred when it determined that Gabi’s will clearly and unambiguously named Aljabi as the sole beneficiary of Gabi’s estate.
“Accordingly, the Court reverses the circuit court’s judgment and remands this case for further proceedings to resolve the ambiguity in the will.”
Dagvadorj v. Aljabi, et al., Record No. 210785; (unpublished order) Oct. 20, 2022. Upon an appeal from a judgment rendered by the Circuit Court of Loudoun County. VLW 022-6-048, 5 pp.