White v. Brown


Mrs. Lide died, and left her interest in her estate to her to surviving sisters, and one of her nieces –

(P) – Mrs. White (sister of deceased) filed the action to obtain a construction of the will – alleging that she is entitled to a fee simple title to the home.

(D)  Claimed that the will conveyed only a life estate to Mrs. White, and since, under the law, the remainder should go to the heirs, which they were (in estate succession).


Unless a contrary intention appears by the terms of the will and its context, does a will convey a testator’s entire interest?




At CL it was different, but a statute which was enacted, stated, “a will shall convey all the real estate belonging to the testator unless a contrary intention appears by the terms of the will and its context.”

Court reasoning

–          The intent of a testator, when not done professionally has always been a problem for the courts.

–          In this case, the testator intended to leave the P the fee simple, because the restraint on alienation. (this is what US courts want to be able to do with land; alienation simply means transferability of real property.)

–          “Thus under our law, unless the words and context will clearly indicate that the testator only intended to convey a life estate to the P, the will should, and will be construed as passing the home to miss white in Fee.”

–          Under ordinary circumstances, a person who makes a will to dispose of his/her entire estate – therefore if a will is susceptible to two constructions – the court has always preferred the construction which disposes of the whole of the testator’s estate, if that construction is reasonable and consistent with the general scope and provisions of the will.

–          The fact that the testator had created a restraint on the transferability of the P’s estate does not evidence such a clear intent to only transfer a life estate. Thus the P will be entitled to a fee simple on the house that she conveyed.

–          The testator’s restriction on transferability must be void, in the essence of public policy.

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