Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff Abo Petroleum Company filed suit to quiet title in lands which were purportedly conveyed to them in fee simple by Beulah and Ruby, life tenants. The daughters of the life tenants contest Plaintiff’s suit.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. This Court will refuse to enforce the doctrine of destructibility of contingent remainders which is an ancient English rule which states that if the prior estate terminated before the occurrence of the contingency, then the contingent remainders would be destroyed for the lack of a supporting freehold estate.
Issue. Could the original grantees Beulah and Ruby have received any interest in the deeds which came after the creation of the life estate, such that the contingent remainders of the life estate are destroyed?
Held. No. Judgment reversed.
The Court held that the position of Abo Petroleum is that the subsequent conveyances to Beulah and Ruby caused the original grantor’s reversionary interest to merge with the life estates of the daughters and that the contingent remainders to the grandchildren were thus destroyed and the daughters took fee simple possession of the property which they later conveyed to Abo’s predecessors. This is an example of the doctrine of destruction of contingent remainders.
The Court held that the doctrine of destructibility of contingent remainders has been almost universally rejected by modern authorities. The Court declines to apply the doctrine and finds that the subsequent deeds to Beulah and Ruby have no force and effect.
The daughters acquired no further interest in the property under the later deeds than what they had already, which was a life estate. Thus, their conveyance to Abo Petroleum’s predecessors could only be that of a life estate, even if it purported to be a fee simple.
Discussion. This case provides a good discussion of the mechanics of the rule of destruction of contingent remainders. The Court noted that the rule resulted in somewhat arbitrary rulings. Consider the reasoning in that assertion.