” B has a vested remainder in fee simple subject to total divestment by a condition subsequent. “To A for life, remainder to B if B survives A.” B has a contingent remainder. B’s interest is subject to a condition precedent. The remainder is vested in the grantor until the condition is satisfied. The Destructibility Rule This rule only applies to contingent remainders. At common law, a contingent remainder was automatically extinguished at the time the prior estate expired if it was not vested by then.
Example: “To A for life, then to B’s children,” where B has no children. If at A’s death (i., expiration of prior estate), B was still childless (i., remainder still contingent), the remainder was destroyed under the destructibility rule and possession reverted to the grantor. Merger Doctrine Another common law method of destroying contingent remainders was the merger doctrine. The doctrine provides that when successive vested estates are held by the same person the smaller of the two is absorbed by the larger.
Example: “To A for life, remainder to A and his heirs.” (i., A has a life estate and a remainder in fee simple absolute). A’s life estate is merged into his remainder and A has one estate in fee simple absolute. If another estate intervenes between the two estates, merger does not occur if the intervening estate is vested. But, if it is contingent, merger occurs and the intervening estate is destroyed. Contingent remainders were not viewed as an estate by common law standards. Example: C grants “To B for life, then to A if he marries.” C then conveys his reversion to B before A gets married.