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An estate for life may be created either by express limitation or by a grant in general terms. If made to a man for the term of his own life, or for that of another person, he is called a tenant for life. But the estate may also be created by a general grant, without defining any specific interest, as where a grant is made to a man, or to a man and his assigns without any limitation in point of time, it will be considered as an estate for life, and for the life of the grantee only. Where a grant is made, subject to be defeated by a particular event, and there is no limitation in point of time, it will be ab initio a grant of an estate for life, as much as if no such event had been contemplated. Thus, if a grant be made to a man so long as he shall inhabit a certain place, or to a woman during her widowhood, as there is no certainty that the estate will be terminated by the change of habitation or by the marriage, respectively, of the lessees, the estate is as much an estate for life, until the prescribed event takes place, as if it had been so granted in express terms.
Plaintiff Helen Thompson is the owner of the premises, which she acquired title thereto by purchase from a former owner, who had theretofore entered into a contract by which he leased and demised the premises to defendant Charles Baxter at an agreed monthly rent of twenty two dollars. Thus, Thompson's title is subject to all rights that became vested in defendant thereby. The lease, after reciting the rental of the premises and other usual conditions, contained upon the subject of the term of the tenancy, the following stipulation: "To have and to hold the above-rented premises unto the said party of the second part [the tenant] his heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, for and during the full term of while he shall wish to live in Albert Lea, from and after the first day of December, 1904." Thompson filed a suit for forcible entry and unlawful detainer, which was submitted upon the pleadings and a stipulation of facts as narrated above. The only question involved under the stipulation is the construction of the quoted provision of the lease: Baxter has at all times paid the rent as it became due; but, if Thompson has the right to terminate the tenancy and eject him, proper notice for that purpose has been given. Thompson contends that the lease created either a tenancy at will, at sufferance, or from month to month, and that Thompson could terminate the same at any time by proper notice. The trial court held, in harmony with Baxter’s contention, that the contract created a life estate in defendant, terminable only at his death or removal from Albert Lea.
Does the aforementioned lease provision created a life estate in Baxter?
In Warner v. Tanner, 38 Oh. St. 118, a life estate was held to be created by a lease for a yearly rent extending during the time the lessee should continue to occupy the premises for a particular purpose. In Mickie v. Lawrence, 5 Rand. (Va.) 571, 574, the grant was to continue so long as the tenant should pay the stipulated rent. It was held a life estate. A grant "so long as the waters of the Delaware shall run" was held in Foster v. Joice, 3 Wash. C.C. 498, Fed. Cas. No. 4,974, to create a life estate. In Hurd v. Cushing, 24 Mass. 169, the premises were leased at a fixed yearly rent for the term "so long as the salt works" to be located thereon should continue in operation. It was held a life estate. In Thomas v. Thomas, 17 N. J. Eq. 356, it was held that a right given by a will to occupy at a specified annual rent certain premises so long as the devisee "may desire to occupy the same as a drug store" amounted to an estate for life. The lease in the case at bar comes within the rule of these authorities, and the trial court properly held that it vested in Baxter a life estate, terminable only at his death or his removal from Albert Lea.