A court of equity has the power to order a judicial sale of land affected with a future interest and an investment of the proceeds, where this is necessary for the preservation of all interests in the land. The proceeds of the sale are held in a judicially created trust and the beneficiaries are those who held interests in the land, and the beneficial interests are of the same character as the legal interests which they formally held in the land.
A 55 year old man married a third time to a 17 year old. This third marriage, though resulting in no children, was a compatible relationship. The couple worked side by side in farming this 152.95-acre tract of land and there was no doubt that the wife’s contribution to the development and existence of the Farm was significant. From his first marriage, he had 2 daughters, whom he did not have a good relationship with. With an obvious intent to exclude his daughters and provide for his wife, he executed his last will and testament bequeathing all his property to his wife.Upon the man’s death and several years later, the highway department got in touch with the wife, his grandchildren and the contingent remainder men to negotiate the terms of the right of way along the property. The remainder men made honest and sincere efforts to sell the property at a favorable price. However, his endeavors have been hindered by the slowness of the construction of the bypass. The wife and life tenant filed suit due to her economic distress praying that the property be sold and that the proceeds be invested to provide her with an adequate income resulting from interest on the trust investment, to which the court granted her prayer under the theory of economic waste. The contingent remainder men appealed to the Supreme Court of Mississippi.
Was the sale proper?
The court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case. The court opined that deterioration and waste of the property was not the exclusive and ultimate test to be used in determining whether a sale of land affected by future interest was proper, but that consideration should also be given to the question of whether a sale was necessary for the best interest of all the parties, that is, the life tenant and the remaindermen. The court concluded that the best interest of all the parties would not be served by a judicial sale of the entirety of the property at that time; although such a sale would have provided immediate relief to the life tenant, it would nevertheless under the circumstances have caused great financial loss to the contingent remaindermen. The court directed that sale of a part of the burdened land was to be made only if the parties could not unite to hypothecate the land for sufficient funds for the life tenant's reasonable needs.