White v. Brown Case Brief

Summary of White v. Brown, Suprem Ct of TN, 1977

Relevant Facts: T(J) left will to P (EW) for land and deed saying ‘ P to live in and to not sold the land’. J appointed SWP to be the exectutrix. EW lived with J for long time together in the house. EW was the mother of SWP. Both of them filed for the constructive fee simple title of home. J’s other heirs refused.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the will passes constructive fee simple rather than a life estate?

Court’s Holding: Yes, TC reversed.

Procedure: Chancellor (CT) held that the will conveyed only a life estate refusing to employ the evidence of relationship for P and J. Ct also ordered to sell the house to distribute for other beneficiaries. And P appealed.

Plaintiff’s Argument: T’s will implies the constructive fee simple because they lived together at the same home.

Defendant’s Argument: Estate was only given for life estate for P and remainder should go for D under law of intestate.

Law or Rule(s):

1.Ct henerally prefer to despose all of T’s estate if the construction is reasonable and consistent with general scope and provision of the will.

2. The will should construct the fee simple unless the words and context of will clearly evidence J’s intention to convey only a life estate.

Court Rationale:

T’s apparent testimony restrain on the alienation of home devised to EW is not evidence for clear intent that T only want for life estate. T’s attempt to restrain and alienation must be declared void as inconsistent with incidents and nature of the estate and contrary of public policy.

Dissent: The language of the T does not state any fee simple. T said ‘not to be sold’. T desire P to have limited estate in the property. T made outright gift and did not violated the rule by restricting P’s title. So it was life estate.

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