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Heirs of estate prepared to fight back over reverter clause issue

Illinois high school football fans often gather under stadium lights during annual seasons, cheering on their favorite teams. Many high schools play football or host other activities on land or in buildings that exist thanks to donations from benefactors who are now deceased. In fact, a school in another state plays all its home games on property that was donated by a local married couple in 1927. A legal problem has arisen regarding the land, and the heirs of the estate are speaking out against school officials, who have filed a lawsuit to gain control of the land.

It seems that some of the school’s officials are concerned that the football field is too close to a busy roadway. They have proposed relocating the team to another field for its home games. The idea has sparked a legal issue, however, because the benefactors’ heirs say there was a reverter clause in the estate plan that says the land is to be given back to the grantors or heirs if the school ever stops using it for athletics.

School officials believe the clause, which is more than 90 years old, is not legally enforceable. The school is taking steps to have the clause removed from the documents so that it possesses clear title to the land. In the meantime, an 81-year-old grandson of the man who donated the land recently spoke at a school board meeting, imploring officials to honor his grandfather’s wishes regarding use of the land.

Approximately 20 other heirs of estate may soon be involved in the situation because a notice went out to them to alert them of the situation. School officials say they have no formal relocation plans or plans to sell the land yet. Illinois residents facing benefactor-related issues with local school boards or other business owners or officials will want to enlist the aid of experienced estate plan attorneys before heading to court.