Brief Fact Summary. Oscar Wurtle created a will that devised his property to his wife . Wurtle did not specify whether the gift was a fee or a life estate. If his wife died or predeceased him, any remaining property would go to his children.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Where there is a grant, devise, or bequest to one in general terms only, expressing neither fee nor life estate, and there is a subsequent limitation over what remains at the first taker’s death, the bequest to the first taker is construed to pas a fee if there is also given to the fist taker an unlimited an unrestricted power of absolute disposal, expressed or implied.
We have held that it relates only to rules of construction and does not enlarge or limit, or in any way modify, any rule of substantive law that existed at the time of its passage or that thereafter has been created.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether a testamentary bequest is a fee or life estate where the gift does not express a fee or life estate, but makes a subsequent limitation over what remains at the first taker’s death?
Held. The testamentary bequest here is a fee because the testator did not use the words fee or life estate when granting the gift to his wife, despite his instructions that the gift go to his foster daughter and her children on his wife’s death. The subsequent limitation is void. The testator could have easily stated that he did not desire the beneficiary to have a fee interest.
Discussion. If a testator desires to limit the powers to dispose of property, he must specifically state such a power in the will.