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Braswell v. Braswell

Law Dictionary
CASE BRIEFS

Law Dictionary

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Property Law Keyed to Cribbet

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 195 Va. 971, 81 S.E.2d 560 (1954)

Brief Fact Summary. James J. Braswell, original grantor, in 1903, devised property in a life estate to Nathaniel Braswell, and to Nathaniel’s heirs at his death, but that if Nathaniel died without leaving heirs of his body, then the property was to revert back to James Braswell or James Braswell’s heirs. In this case the original grantor died intestate in 1932 leaving three sons as sole heirs at law (S.J. Braswell, W.H. Braswell, and Nathaniel Braswell the life tenant). Nathaniel Braswell, life tenant, died testate and without issue in 1952, and devised all his real property to Charles Braswell, the Plaintiff.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The doctrine of worthier title simply means that a grant of an inter vivos life estate with the remainder to the heirs of the next of kin is ineffective to create a remainder, but does leave in the grantor a reversion which will pass by operation of law at his death, unless he has otherwise disposed of the reversion interest.


Facts. James J. Braswell, original grantor, in 1903, devised property in a life estate to Nathaniel Braswell, and to Nathaniel’s heirs at his death, but that if Nathaniel died without leaving heirs of his body, then the property was to revert back to James Braswell or James Braswell’s heirs. In this case the original grantor died intestate in 1932 leaving three sons as sole heirs at law (S.J. Braswell, W.H. Braswell, and Nathaniel Braswell the life tenant). Nathaniel Braswell, life tenant, died testate and without issue in 1952, and devised all his real property to Charles Braswell, the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff, Charles Braswell then instituted this suit in partition claiming to own as tenant in common a one-third undivided interest in the land granted under the 1903 conveyance. The lower court found in favor of the Plaintiff and the Defendants appealed.

Issue. What is the proper construction of the last portion of the original conveyance: “if the said Nathaniel T. Braswell should die leaving no lawful heir of his body, then the land herein conveyed shall revert back to the said James J. Braswell or to his lawful heirs.” [emphasis added]?
If the language creates a remainder to the heirs of the grantor upon the occurrence of Nathaniel’s death in 1952, then only the two remaining sons of James Braswell would own an interest and the Plaintiff would not take; but
If the doctrine of worthier title applies as a rule of construction, then the last portion of the conveyance will be held to be reversion interest to the grantor (or in this case the heirs of the grantor, inclusive of Nathaniel, who had conveyed his interest to Plaintiff).

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