101 U.S. 577 (1880), Walden v. Skinner

Citation:101 U.S. 577, 25 L.Ed. 963
Case Date:March 29, 1880
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 577

101 U.S. 577 (1880)

25 L.Ed. 963




United States Supreme Court.

March 29, 1880


APPEAL from the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Georgia.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.


Mr. Benjamin H. Hill for the appellant.

Mr. A. R. Lawton, contra.

MR. JUSTICE CLIFFORD delivered the opinion of the court.

Trusts are either express or implied, the former being such as are raised or created by the act of the parties, and the latter being such as are raised or created by presumption or construction of law. Cook v. Fountain, 3 Swanst. 585, 592.

Implied trusts may also be divided into two general classes: First, those that rest upon the presumed intention of the parties. Secondly, those which are independent of any such express intentions, and are forced upon the conscience of the party by operation of law. 2 Story, Eq. Jur., sect. 1195.

Sufficient appears to show that Sarah S. Walden, the complainant, on the sixth day of May, 1874, filed her bill of complaint in the court below against the respondents, to wit, Darius S. Skinner and John N. Lewis and Charles S. Hardee, executors of Charles S. Henry, deceased, who in his lifetime was the trustee of Penelope W. Tefft and her three children. Preliminary to the charging part of her complaint she alleges and states that on the 28th of October, 1847, she intermarried with William P. Tefft, who on the 9th of August, five years later, departed this life intestate and without children, leaving the complainant as his sole heir and legal representative; that on the 4th of June, six years subsequent to the death of her first husband, she intermarried

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with Charles C. Walden, who, on the eighth day of December of the next year, departed this life testate, leaving no children by the complainant, and that he by his will bequeathed to her all the property and rights owned and possessed by her at the date of their marriage; and that the father of her first husband died intestate on the 30th of June, 1862, but that no administration was ever had upon his estate, and that his widow, the mother of her first husband, departed this life testate on the 11th of September eleven years later; that her first husband had two brothers at the date of her marriage neither of whom ever married and both of whom died without children, that at the death of the elder of the two he had a life policy of insurance for $5,000, which his administrator collected and paid to his two living brothers.

Allegations then follow in the bill of complaint which relate more immediately to the subject-matter of the controversy, from which it appears that Elias Fort, June 28, 1831, conveyed a certain tract of land to Charles S. Henry and Stephen C. Greene, as trustees and in trust for Penelope W. Tefft and her three sons, William P. Tefft, Henry D. Tefft, and Charles E. Tefft, and it is therein declared that the said property is for the use of the mother during her lifetime and the three sons, and that after the death of the mother it shall be for the use of the three sons alone as tenants in common, and that in case of sale 'the proceeds to be reinvested upon the same uses and trusts as aforesaid, and if not sold, then the property, after the death of the mother, was to be distributed by said trustees to each of the said sons as shall survive and attain the age of twenty-one years.'

Greene, one of the trustees, subsequently died, leaving Charles S. Henry the sole surviving trustee under the trust-deed, and she charges that on the 19th of July, 1848, the mayor and aldermen of the city of Savannah conveyed to him as such trustee a certain lot of land numbered five, Monterey Ward, in said city, the lot being then subject to certain annual groundrents, as specified in the conveyance, and the complainant avers that the conveyance is informal and incomplete, inasmuch as the trustee never signed it, as it was intended, and that it fails to set forth and express the trust interests of the three children

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as it should do. Wherefore she alleges that it should be reformed and be made to conform to the purposes of the trust as created and set forth in the original trust-deed.

Persuasive and convincing reasons in support of that request are alleged which will hereafter be reproduced when the merits of the controversy are considered.

Relief specific and general is prayed, as is more fully set forth in the transcript. Process was served and the respondents appeared, and after certain interlocutory proceedings filed separate answers.

All of the defences to the merits are set up in the answer of the first named respondent, who admits all of the preliminary matters alleged in the bill of complaint. He also admits that there was in existence at the time of the first marriage of the complainant the trust estate held by the surviving trustee arising under the conveyance from Elias Fort to the said two trustees, which, as he alleges, was held for the sole and separate use of the mother during her life, and remainder at her death to her three sons as tenants in common.

Prior to that transaction there is no controversy between the parties as to the facts, and he also admits that the authorities of the city conveyed the lot called Monterey Ward to the surviving trustee, but he alleges that by the terms of the conveyance the legal title to the lot vested in the trustee in trust for the sole and separate use of the mother, the trust being executory only so long and for such time as the cestui que trust should remain a feme covert; and he denies that the conveyance is informal and incomplete in any particular, or that it was ever expected or intended by any one that the trustee should sign the same, and he avers that it was accepted by the trustee for the purposes therein set forth.

Attempt is also made to enforce that view by a specific denial of most of the reasons assigned in the bill of complaint in support of the request that the conveyance to the trustee of the lot called Monterey Ward may be reformed so as to conform to the trusts created and expressed in the antecedent trustdeed.

Both of the other respondents allege that they are citizens of the State where the suit is brought, and deny that the Circuit

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Court had any jurisdiction to make or execute any order, judgment, or decree against them in the premises.

Proofs were taken, the parties heard, and the Circuit Court entered a decree in favor of the respondents, dismissing the bill of complaint. Prompt appeal was taken by the complainant to this court, and since the appeal was brought up she has filed the assignment of errors set forth in the brief of her counsel. They are ten in number, all of which will be sufficiently considered in the course of the opinion, without giving each a separate examination.

Before examining the questions presented in respect to the second deed, it becomes necessary to ascertain the true construction and meaning of the original trust-deed so far as respects the second trust therein created and defined. Eight hundred dollars constituted the consideration of the conveyance, and it was made upon the trust that if, during the lifetime of the mother of the three sons, it should be deemed advisable by her to sell and convey the premises, then upon this further trust that the trustees as aforesaid, or the survivor of them, upon her application and with her consent, signified by her being a party to the conveyance, will sell and convey the lot and improvements for the best price which can be obtained for the same, to any person or persons whatsoever, without applying to a court of law or equity for that purpose to authorize the same, and the proceeds thereof upon the same trusts as aforesaid to invest in such other property or manner as the mother of the sons shall direct and request for the same use, benefit, and behalf.

Explicit and unambiguous as that provision is, it requires no discussion to ascertain its meaning; nor is it necessary to enter into any examination of the third trust specified in the conveyance, as it is conceded that the trust property was sold by the surviving trustee for reinvestment during the lifetime of the mother at her request, she joining in the conveyance as required by the terms of the instrument creating the trust.

Twenty-four hundred dollars were received for the conveyance of the trust property, and all of that sum, except $600 turned over to the mother, was invested in buildings then being erected upon lot numbered five, called the Monterey Ward.

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Purchase of that lot had previously been made by the surviving trustee named in the original trust-deed, and it appears that the parties understood that it was to be upon the same uses and trusts as were contained in the trust-deed by which the title to the lot sold was acquired.

Proof that the new lot numbered five, called Monterey Ward, was purchased by the father and the three sons during the lifetime of the father seems to be entirely satisfactory, and it is equally well established that each contributed one-fourth part of the sum of $240 paid for the purchase-money of the lot. Satisfactory proof is also exhibited that Henry D. Tefft, one of the three brothers, died Aug. 13, 1849, unmarried and intestate, and that he had a valid subsisting insurance upon his life in the sum of $5,000, which his administrator collected and paid to his surviving brothers.

Eighteen hundred dollars of the proceeds arising from the sale of the property acquired by virtue of the first trust-deed were appropriated towards erecting buildings on the new lot purchased by the father and the three sons...

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