Brief Fact Summary.
Louise Woodruff had a will that required her executor to raze her residence, which was located in a significant architectural location, and sell the residence to give the proceeds to her beneficiaries. Plaintiff brought suit to enjoin the destruction of the residence. The trial court denied Plaintiff’s injunction, and Plaintiff appealed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
If a landowner attempts to require his successor in interest to do something to the property, which is against public policy, the court may deem the condition void.
Louise Woodruff Johnston’s will required her executor to raze her residence and sell it, giving the proceeds to her beneficiaries. Johnston’s residence was part of a city landmark, the Kingsbury Place subdivision, which carries architectural significance. Plaintiffs, neighboring property owner and trustees, filed an injection tostop the destruction of the residence, alleging it would diminish the value of their property and it is against public policy. The trial court the court noted that the destruction of the property, based on the worth of the property, $40,000, would provide a net value of $650 to the beneficiaries. Therefore, the trial court denied Plaintiff’s injunction. Plaintiff appealed.
May the court deem a condition void if a landowner, who tries to require that his successor in interest to do something to the land, which is against public policy?
Yes, the may court deem a condition void if a landowner, who tries to require that his successor in interest to do something to the land, which is against public policy?
The record is silent as to why Johnston wanted the residence destroyed, which is contrary to the court’s claim that Johnston’s reason to destroy the house was “senseless” and “capricious.” Additionally, neither the neighboring property owners nor the beneficiaries are parties to the lawsuit, therefore, the majority’s holding, which seeks to protect the neighboring property owners and beneficiaries, is not justified. The court should enforce the will and uphold Johnston’s intent expressed in the will.
When an owner tries to require his or her successor to act against public policy, the condition or requirement is considered void. Notably, when an owner is living, he or she is generally restrained from destroying his or her real or personal property. After death, the court is allows to step in to avoid the destruction. Here, the destruction of Johnston’s residence would reduce the value to Johnston’s beneficiaries and reduce the neighbor property value, rather than benefiting anyone. Therefore, the trial court’s judgment is reversed and the case is remanded.