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It is the well accepted rule in Tennessee that in attempting to determine the estate conveyed in a deed, a court must examine the deed to determine the intention of the parties.
R. W. Grizzard and wife conveyed certain property to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Goodlettsville to be used solely by the church as a parsonage. The instrument of conveyance further stipulated that if the property was used for any other purpose, the said conveyance to the church will be null and void and title to said property will become vested in the heirs at law of L. Hinton Grizzard. The church used the property for a church manse or parsonage for many years, but sought to sell the property after the area changed from residential to commercial. Appellants, trustees and the manse committee of a church, petitioned the trial court to allow the sale of the property and the investment of the proceeds in another piece of property with the heirs' reversionary interest attaching to the new property. The chancellor dismissed the bill. Appellants challenged the decision.
Could appellants be allowed to sell the conveyed property free of a provision that granted a reverter interest to the heirs?
The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court sustaining the heirs' demurrer, holding that the intention of the grantors was to give their property to the church so long as it was used for church purposes and, then, when not so used, the property was to revert to the grantors, or their heirs. According to the court, the heirs should receive the land in accordance with the clear intent and wish of the grantors, provided the church failed to use the land for the purposes specified in the deed. The court concluded that the intention of the grantors was clear and should not be deviated from.