Monday, November 25, 2013

Lewis v. Searles case brief

Lewis v. Searles case brief summary
452 S.W.2d 153 (Mo. 1970)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Plaintiff appealed the Circuit Court of New Madrid County's (Missouri) declaratory judgment that plaintiff had a life estate and a fee simple interest in an undivided one-third thereof, in her suit to have title to real estate quieted in her in fee and to have a will construed.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiff sought to have title to real estate quieted in her in fee and to have a will construed. The will contained a provision giving property to plaintiff if she remained unmarried, if she was to marry, the property would be equally divided among plaintiff and two others. The lower court held plaintiff had a life estate and a fee simple interest in an undivided one-third thereof; plaintiff appealed.

DISCUSSION

  • The court reversed, holding the provision was not against public policy because it was not punishing plaintiff for marrying, but was intended as aid while single. 
  • Further, the court held the testatrix intended terms of fee interests and the devise was in fee because there was no intent expressed to create a life estate only and no further devise was made to take effect after plaintiff's death. 
  • Thus, plaintiff received a determinable fee, subject to defeasance of two-thirds upon her marriage.

CONCLUSION
Judgment was reversed because a marital provision in a will was not against public policy and devised, with not gift over upon death, a fee, subject to divestiture in part upon marriage.

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