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Wood v. Board of County Commissioners of Fremont County

    Brief Fact Summary. A couple deeded land to be used as a hospital. When it stopped being used as a hospital, they attempted to reclaim the land.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. There is a presumption that every conveyance of real estate passes all the estate of the grantor unless the intent to pass less is expressly stated or is necessarily implied in the terms of the grant.

    Facts. Cecil and Edna Wood (Appellants) conveyed land to Fremont County by warranty deed for the construction of a county hospital. The county built a hospital and operated it. They then sold the hospital to a private company, that later moved the operation and put the premises up for sale. Appellants now contend that the language of the deed created either a fee simple determinable or a fee simple subject to condition subsequent with a right of reversion if the land ceased to be used as a hospital.

    Issue. When a conveyance is ambiguous and the intent of the grantor is unclear, is a presumption against the existence of a future interest valid?

    Held. Yes.
    Disputed language in a deed is reviewed to determine the intent of the parties from the plain language in the deed considered as a whole. There is a presumption that every conveyance of real estate passes all the estate of the grantor unless the intent to pass less is expressly stated or is necessarily implied in the terms of the grant.
    The plain language in the deed does not clearly state that the estate conveyed will expire automatically if the land is not used for the stated purpose. It does not evidence an intent of the grantors to convey a fee simple determinable, and so no fee simple determinable was created when the land was conveyed.
    There is no limiting language in the deed that would evidence an intent not to convey a fee simple determinable.
    Further, the plain language of the deed does not clearly sate an intent of the grantors to retain a discretionary power to renter the land if the land ceased to be used for the stated purpose. So, appellants did not convey a fee simple subject to a condition subsequent.

    Discussion. When the intent of a grantor is unclear, courts will attempt further the alienability of property by presuming against the existence of a future interest.


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