Ms. Lide left a will that said that Perry should be the executrix of her estate and should get all her personal property. It also said "I wish Evelyn White to have my home to live in and not to be sold."
Lide had no children and her two surviving sisters quitclaimed interest in the residence to White.
Defendants are the 12 nieces and nephews of Lide.
White filed the action to obtain construction of the will alleging tat she is vested with a fee simple title to the home.
Ds contend that the will conveyed only a life estate to P, and so the remainder should go to them under the laws of intestate succession.
Chancellor held that the will passed a life estate to P, but not the remainder, so the remainder passed by inheritance to the testatix's heirs (Ds).
Supreme Ct of VT reversed, held that P got fee simple and restraint on alienation was invalid.
How should a court construe a grant of land to a grantee "to live in, and not to be sold" when there are no subsequent provisions dictating what should occur after the end of the grantee's life?
When there are no subsequent provisions dictating what should occur at the end of the grantee's life, a grant of land "to live in" should be construed as a fee simple.
The fact that the "not to be sold" restraint on alienation language was included is not enough to overcome the presumption in favor of construction as a fee simple grant.
Restraint on alienation is void for public policy.
Words chosen by testatrix are not specific enough to clearly state intent.
Could read the will as a life estate.
Could read it as a fee simple with restraint on alienation.
Could read it as a fee simple subject to condition subsequent (FSOCS) (Mrs. White's failure to live in the home).
VT statutes of construction state:
Presumption is that a fee simple was intended unless intent to pass a less estate or interest appears by express terms.
A will conveys all real estate belonging to testator unless a contrary intention appears.
Several cases show that when language seems to convey an estate for life, but there is no provision for what happens after the termination of the life estate, it is construed as a fee simple instead.
However, there is an issue in this case because Lide also said "not to be sold." This restriction conflicts with the free alienation of property.
Courts always prefer the construction that disposes an entire estate, rather than only a part.
A construction which results in partial intestacy will not be adopted unless such intention clearly appears.
Therefore, testatrix's apparent testamentary restrain on the alienation does not evidence a clear intent to pass only a life estate as is sufficient to overcome the strong presumption that a fee simple interest was conveyed.
Restraint on alienation is void.
Testatrix desired that White was not to have an unlimited estate in the property, and this was reiterated in the last sentence of the will.
Niece was given all personal property and was appointed executrix.
Will is not that ambiguous- clearly meant to give P a life estate and then pass remainder to heirs.
Testatrix knew how to make an outright gift, as she did with property given to niece. She clearly meant to give P the house only to live in and without the power to sell it.