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A reservation in a deed of an easement to a third party is valid when the intention of the parties is patently evident.
The decedent died three months after executing a warranty deed. The Trial Court, based on the deed's language as a whole, held that the decedent intended to create a life estate in the grantee. The heir's appellate argument characterized the life estate language as violating the Ogle rule, improperly reserving an interest in a stranger to the deed. The Appellate Court accepted the language as a reservation but rejected the Ogle rule, finding that the grantor's intent controlled and that the intent to create a life estate in the grantee was clear from the deed's language and the circumstances surrounding its execution.
Did a deed "subject to a life estate" in a third person validly create that life estate?
The Court asserted that the deed's plain language, the underscoring of the life estate provision, and the thirteen years that the grantee was the decedent's companion, showed a clear intent to create a life estate in the grantee. The Court considered the Ogle rule impractical, as the decedent could have reserved a life estate to himself and then conveyed it to the grantee without any legal impediment. The Court affirmed summary judgment, concluding that the heir held a fee simple subject to a life estate and any abstract or title policy examiner had fair notice.