Summary of Jee v. Audley, Court of Chancery (1787)
Parties: PL’s are the four daughters of John & Elizabeth Jee against the testator’s estate.
Cause of action/remedy sought: Declaratory judgment sought as to the rightful heir of 1000£ as bequeathed in Edward Audley’s will.
Procedural History: Master of the Rolls dismissed the bill without costs.
Facts: Will bequeathed by Edward Audley, conveying 1000£ to wife and then to niece Mary and the issue of her body. If Mary were to do while intestate, then the living daughters of Ed’s brother and sister-in-law (or bother-in-law and sister), John and Elizabeth Jee. John and Elizabeth were alive at the time Ed died, and they had 4 daughters, and they (John and Liz) were very old. Mary was unmarried with no kids
Issue(s): Under ancient property law, does a living heir who was required to “issue” children in her life in order to receive 1000£ at the time of the testator’s death, but who has not, default on the terms of the testator’s last will and testament, thereby giving the living nieces full present interest in the money?
Was the limitation on the will to the daughters of John and Liz was not void as being too remote?
Holding: No. Lord Kenyon decided that the terms in the will regarding the end of her bloodline (a sort of fee tail), and thus possession of the 1000£ was shifted to Ms. Hall, who had not issued any children at the time the contingent remainder became a present interest. He also held the after-born children of
Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: The conveyance of a will runs from the death of a testator. A life being is a person alive at the time the will was created and those who were mentioned in the will. The terms of the will “…at her death I give the said 1000£ unto my niece Mary Hall and the issue of her body lawfully begotten, and to be begotten…” to mean children not only born before Ms. Hall passed away, but after she passed away as well (clearly not in line with the rule of perpetuities, in addition to biology: a woman at 40 might find it hard to have a child).
Since the bequeath of the will did not state to “the daughters now living” or “to the daughters living at the time of my death,” it is void, because the limitation my take in after born daughters. Language that would create a fee tail in land was construed to create a fee simple in personal property.
Rule: The limitations of personal estate are void, unless they necessarily vest, if at all, within a life or lives in being and 21 years or 9 or 10 months afterwards. (rule against perpetuities). You cannot use subsequent events to satisfy RAP.
(actual rule: “No rule is good unless it must vest, if at all, not later than 21 years after some life in being”)
Did court avoid issues?: N/A.
Dicta: This case established the proposition that, under the Rule against Perpetuities, it must be assumed that a person of any age can have a child, no matter what they person’s physical condition. Also a person of any age can adopt a child.