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It is generally held that, where an estate has been devised in fee, subject to be defeated by the happening of some future event or contingency, if the happening of such event or contingency becomes impossible of occurrence, the defeasible fee becomes a fee simple absolute. A defeasible fee will be enlarged into a fee simple absolute upon the death of the first devisee prior to the happening of the event or contingency by which alone his estate can be defeated, and which event or contingency cannot possibly occur after his death.
Plaintiff Paulette Louise B. Dickson initiated an action against defendant Alexandria Hospital Inc., a beneficiary under the will of Virginia Simpson, the deceased widow, and the First National Bank of Alexandria, her executor. Plaintiff alleged that as a sole beneficiary under the will of plaintiff's deceased husband, French Cameron Simpson, she was entitled to a share of the estate of George L. Simpson, testator, which the widow had disposed of by her will. Defendants contended that the language of the testator’s will create a defeasible fee simple in his widow, and the latter having died without remarrying, a fee simple title to the residuum passed to them by her will. The district court held that the widow took a defeasible fee simple estate, which became absolute when she died without having remarried. Thus, upon the motion of defendants, the district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim against the defendants upon which relief could be granted. Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of her complaint.
Were the sentences in the will created a defeasible fee simple?
The court ruled that the conclusion reached by the district court was right. The court held that a consideration of the Virginia cases led to the conclusion that the disputed language in the will under Virginia law created a defeasible fee simple estate in testator's widow, defeasible only in the event she married again, in which event she would take a child's part for her life. The court held that the only harmonious construction to be drawn from all the provisions and words of the will, taken together, was that the testator intended to give to his widow the entire estate, but if she married again, then she was only to have a child’s part for her life. Accordingly, the court declared that the sentences in dispute created a defeasible fee simple to the residuum in the widow which became a fee simple absolute when she died without having remarried. The decision of the district court was affirmed.