Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Williams v. Estate of Williams case brief

Williams v. Estate of Williams

Subject: Conservation of Estates


1. Will executed July 18, 1933. Probated: Nov. 24, 1944.
2. Testator died on Nov. 17, 1944, left will behind, owned farm at the time of his death.
3. Survived by 9 children, including 3 daughters named in will.
4. Defendant, Etta Tallent, is the only survivor of the three children named in the will.
5 Ethel Williams has maintained possession of the farm since the death of testator, jointly with Ida and Mallie Williams (until their deaths).
6. (Will, page 564)
7. Complaint: Interest received by Ethel Williams = life estate under will OR a life estate under will and a “remainder interest” by intestate succession.
-Trial Ct. = fee simple. Ct. of Appeals affirmed.

-The function of a suit to construe a will is to ascertain and effect the intention of the testator.
-Another rule of construction is that when a controlling or predominate purpose of the testator is expressed, it is the duty of the court to effectuate that purpose, and to construe all subsidiary clauses so as to bring them into subordination to such purpose. The language of a single sentence is not to control as against the evident purpose and intent shown by the whole will.
-Here the predominate intention of testator is clear. (565)
-The intention of the testator is not an absolute gift to all or either of the daughters.
-Upon the death or marriage of the named daughters, the testator’s purpose as to them would have been accomplished and the testator’s heirs would inherit the property by intestate succession.
-A will shall convey all the real estate belonging to the testator or in which he had any interest at his decease, unless a contrary intention appear by its words in context.

-The testator recognized that his other heirs would acquire some interest in the property upon his death.
-The testator did not intend for the named daughters to have an absolute estate in the farm.
-The estate left to the daughters was less than a fee simple.

1. Upon the death of the testator, each named daughter held a life estate, defeasible or determinable upon her marriage.
2. Each daughter also had an executory interest in each of the other two daughters’ 1/3rd interest, which would vest in her possession if the other life tenant should die or marry while she remained unmarried.

3. The heirs-at-law of the testator held a reversion in fee simple, subject to the determinable life estates and the executory interests in the named daughters, which reversion would vest in possession, at the latest, upon the death of the survivor of the named daughters.


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