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Law School Case Brief

Johnson v. Whiton - 159 Mass. 424, 34 N.E. 542 (1893)

Rule:

Inherited property may pass from one line to the other in Massachusetts.

Facts:

Certain land passed under the seventh clause of the will of Royal Whiton to his five grandchildren. Plaintiff Albin Johnson paid a deposit to purchase land from decedent's grandchildren. A deed was executed and conveyed to Johnson, but Johnson refused on the ground that one of the grandchildren Sarah A. Whiton, could not convey a fee simple absolute because the conveyance of the land from Royal Whiton to Sarah, was as follows: "After the decease of all my children, I give, devise, and bequeath to my granddaughter, Sarah A. Whiton, and her heirs on her father's side, one third part of all my estate, both real and personal, and to my other grandchildren and their heirs respectively the remainder, to be divided in equal parts between them." Plaintiff Albin Johnson brought the action to recover the deposit in connection with the purchase of real estate. The lower court ruled in favor of defendants, and plaintiff appealed.

Issue:

Does a clause preventing conveyance of an unqualified fee violate public policy?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The judgment of the lower court was affirmed. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts held that where the denial of the passing of legal title would have violated public policy, legal title could pass to plaintiff and it denied the refund of plaintiff's deposit; the judgment of the lower court was affirmed.

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